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World I spent 2 weeks wearing a face shield instead of a mask, and I'm never going back

23:21  03 june  2020
23:21  03 june  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com.au

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a woman standing in front of a brick building: Me in my beloved shield. Me in my beloved shield.
  • Face coverings are required in many places around the US to protect people from coronavirus infections.
  • I tried wearing a face shield instead of a face mask for about a week, and fell in love.
  • The shield is easily cleaned, easy to see through, simple to breathe and talk in, and provides a physical barrier that protects both the wearer and others from infection.
  • There is no solid evidence about whether a shield is superior to a mask, protection-wise, but experts say there's no reason to think that face shields are necessarily inferior viral barriers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I'm just going to say it: I hate wearing my face mask.

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Homemade face masks are uncomfortable, sweaty, difficult to breathe in, difficult to talk in, fog up glasses, and require regular washing.

Plus, they're imperfect viral barriers, especially if you're taking them on and off all day to talk, breathe, eat, and drink.

Luckily, I've found something far better.

I've been wearing a rigid plastic face shield - a protective barrier against disease made of plastic - that covers my eyes, nose, and mouth, in place of a makeshift face mask. I've been using it for about two weeks now as I walk around my neighbourhood in New York, where face coverings are required in public to help protect people from catching the coronavirus.

The results have been delightful.

So before you brave another trip to the grocery store or the park in your Centres for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended homemade mask, hear me out.

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Wearing a mask in addition to a shield is the most iron-clad form of virus protection.

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera

But, "if you just need some pretty good protection, and especially if you're just really worried about preventing you from giving someone else COVID, then the shield does actually protect you really well," said industrial designer Stephen Chininis, a professor at Georgia Tech and advisor to the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, where he 3D prints shields.

Chininis and other inventors and manufacturers have started making shields that attach to a baseball cap, which anybody can wear.

a man wearing a hat and glasses

They don't require the elastic bands that healthcare workers often use for their shields, which have been in short supply.

"I mean, I can't wear a mask for very long," Chininis said. "In certain situations, it's just really difficult."

He said if you do use a shield, it's important to ensure whatever plastic barrier you use covers the face back to the ears and extends down below the chin.

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I tried out a face shield from a packaging company based in Michigan, which costs around $US1.50.

a woman sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone

Hat Shield sent me a few free samples of their shields to try out. I like the "plus" version, which includes bendable flaps that extend around the sides of the face. It slips easily onto the bill of a baseball cap.

There are plenty of other shields for sale online around the globe. (Chininis has opted to sell his shields through distributors.)

As you can see, the seal around the sides of the face and below the chin is not air-tight, but public health experts assured me that for most everyday encounters, that's probably OK.

a woman standing in front of a building

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Health Security told Insider it would be extremely unlikely for someone else's viral particles to penetrate your shield, unless someone "sticks their face, sticks themselves directly" where there is a hole.

"The virus still follows gravity, right?" he said.

It's a lot easier to communicate with people in a shield, and easier to breathe. I've also gotten nothing but compliments on my new look.

a person standing in front of a store

I really don't mind keeping my shield on for extended periods of time when out running errands, and I never feel like I'm going to hyperventilate or pass out in a shield.

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The reaction on the street has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Nice shield" two young men said as I walked by them on the footpath.

Another woman stopped me in the crosswalk on the way to my local hardware store.

"Can I ask you a question?" she said. "Where did you get that?"

Bonus: there's no need to take the shield off when you get thirsty.

a person holding a glass of red wine: Can you even tell I'm wearing my shield here? Barely. Can you even tell I'm wearing my shield here? Barely.

Adalja said this is a major benefit of shields over homemade masks.

"I think that shields may be more effective, because you don't touch your face as much when you're wearing a shield," he said.

Shields do have one fatal flaw. They are terrible for exercising.

a woman standing in front of a building

And they can fly off in a stiff wind, which has happened to me on more than one occasion.

Once, just once, I tried to run in my shield. Never again.

a man wearing a red hat

The wind smushed the shield right into my nose and chin, and when I sped up, things got foggy fast.

After just six minutes on the run, the wind blew my shield off entirely.

an empty parking lot in the middle of the street

It actually felt pretty great at that point. Running in a shield is a stifling exercise in frustration. There's just not enough airflow.

I finally figured out that wearing a cap with a narrower bill that frames my face more tightly than this one really helps to keep it from sliding off.

a man wearing a hat and sunglasses

Fortunately, it's not that hard to keep the requisite six feet distance from other people when I run outside during this pandemic, shield or no shield.

a narrow city street with cars parked on the side of a road

I've been avoiding my usual running spots (in parks and on trails) during the pandemic. They're too crowded. But it's not hard to keep six feet away from others on the road, and there are very few cars out.

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From now on when I run, I'll be shield-free.

a smiling woman in a car

But for everything else I do outside, this narrow-billed cap made from a soft, polyester-spandex material is the one I've settled on that fits best, and keeps the shield tightly wrapped around my face. I'm never going back to life in a mask.

a woman wearing a hat

Yes, hand washing and physical distance are still the best ways to stay virus-free, but shields are a way to not only stay safe, but stay seen, heard, and understood when venturing out and about.

Shields could even provide a more comfortable way for protesters to raise their voices right now, while keeping any viral particles behind a protective barrier.

a man standing in front of a crowd: People gather to protest the recent killing of George Floyd on May 29, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. People gather to protest the recent killing of George Floyd on May 29, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.

Adalja said shields could end up becoming a superior option for community-wide virus protection, because people won't mind keeping them on as much as disposable masks.

"I was just walking on the street now, and I just see them strewn all over the place," he said.

I'm not the only one who thinks shields are underrated coronavirus-fighting tools. A group of doctors wrote recently in the medical journal JAMA that shields might help "reduce transmissibility below a critical threshold," if everyone wore one out in public.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Shields are "simple, "affordable," and if everyone wore them - in conjunction with regular coronavirus testing, tracing, and hand washing - disease experts suggested that might be a better strategy than the homemade face coverings the CDC has recommended.

"Cloth masks have been shown to be less effective than medical masks for prevention of communicable respiratory illnesses," the doctors wrote. "Face shields may provide a better option."

They also cover your eyes, which a scientific review on the best ways to prevent coronavirus infections suggested may help prevent infections from spreading.

fact check: Are visors a good substitute for a respirator? .
© iStockphoto If you don't feel like wearing a mask, just take your sights in the Corona crisis. But do the popular plastic constructions help contain the virus? Breathe more freely, smile more clearly, easier communication: the advantages of visors as a substitute for the everyday mask seem to be obvious. But the use of plastic structures as a virus barrier is controversial.

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