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Want more protection against COVID-19? Try a face shield

Experts say when used properly, they offer more complete protection to the wearer.

TAMPA, Fla — As public health leaders continue to push Americans to wear face masks as a means of stopping the spread of COVID-19, experts also say face shields could offer even better protection when worn properly.

"There's evolving evidence right now that face shields to the wearer may provide...nearly as good protection from coronavirus as a face mask,” said Dr. Eliot Godofsky of Bach and Godofsky Infectious Diseases in Manatee County.

The protective gear has come in the spotlight in recent days after infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told the American Federation of Teachers to consider eye protection when they head back to the classroom.

"The eyes are also vulnerable, so if you have goggles of some sort that could cover the eyes. The face shields are easy, you strap around--that's one way,” Fauci said.

Yet even if face shields provide good protection, doctors say you shouldn't wear it alone given what's known about masks.

"A face shield should always be not instead of a face mask, but it should be, in addition to the face mask,” said Dr. Michael Teng of the University of South Florida. “If you have this complete protection where you have goggles or a face shield and then, in addition, you have a face mask then...I wouldn't say perfect protection, but it's very, very good protection."

Still, as good as face shields might be, there remain things to learn.

"What we don't know right now is how good face shields are in preventing somebody who's infected with COVID-19 from spreading that...the face shields have openings, you know, to the side and in the bottom and you can still have particles escape there,” Godofsky said.

However, when you're in close quarters and you can't social distance, Teng says that’s when shields can make a big difference.

"Putting a physical barrier in between you and the potential source of infection is a really good way of preventing spread,” Teng said.

Doctors also say face shields are good for keeping you from touching your face and eyes, which is another easy way to spread the virus.

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