Can face shields replace masks?

This is part 38 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Medical practitioners wear both masks and face shields

Face shields, transparent face coverings worn by doctors and nurses, are used to cover both the upper and lower portions of the face. Their main purpose is to prevent the virus from entering the body via the eye membranes. Staff at medical institutions always wear both masks and face shields.

Professor Sugawara Erisa at Tokyo Healthcare University Graduate School, an expert in infection prevention, says a face shield could be useful like a cloth mask when people talk to each other in close proximity as it prevents the wearer from spraying others with droplets.

Face shields and iPads make English classes safer

A face shield alone does not sufficiently protect from infection

Sugawara says, however, wearing only a face shield does not sufficiently protect the wearer from infection. She says that a face shield is effective in stopping the wearer from touching their nose or mouth, even if they don't wear a mask. But, a face shield cannot prevent any virus in the air from entering the body through the mouth and nose.

Don't touch the outer surface, disinfect after use

Sugawara says when using a face shield, we should avoid touching its outer surface as it can be contaminated with the virus. After use, we should be sure to wipe it with alcohol or wash it with detergent.

Sugawara added that the most effective way to prevent infection is to minimize personal contact and wash your hands often.

The information is accurate as of July 9, 2020.