Face shields alone put you, others at risk

Isabella Kneeshaw, Staff Writer

We’ve spent almost an entire year in a world influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and so many of us have found wearing a mask in public spaces an everyday norm. While it’s not always enjoyable, it’s an effective and essential way to prevent the spread of the potentially life-threatening virus. 

Many opted for what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends: that you wear a mask with two or more layers of fabric that completely cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly with no gaps. Those guidelines seem simple, logical and easy to follow. However I often find my attention drawn toward people who choose to wear only face shields as opposed to masks. 

I confess to having curiosity and confusion at the idea of a plastic face covering with many large gaps and openings being protective. Isn’t there too much air flow in and out of the shield? I became uncomfortable getting within six feet of someone wearing a face shield because it felt that they were putting me more at risk of being exposed to them and whoever else they’ve been in contact with, especially if they had been unknowingly exposed to COVID-19. Online research and information from the CDC all advise masks as the wisest choice as opposed to face shields. For most optimal protection, some research even suggests wearing both a face mask and shield. 

However, some find that wearing a mask may cause trouble breathing or make them feel claustrophobic. There are also certain disabilities that can make wearing a mask very difficult. These are all understandable issues people face when attempting to keep themselves and others safe. 

While a face shield may be appealing, don’t put your foot down just because one mask isn’t working. There are many different types of masks, some that may work better for you than others, so find what’s most comfortable for you. Even consider practicing by wearing your mask for short periods of time at home so that you can get used to the feeling in a more familiar environment. In some rare cases, if the risks of going out without a mask (if you are unable to wear one) outweigh all else, this is when you may consider staying home and ordering your groceries online.

If you are able, be courteous of others and wear a face mask. If not, don’t reach for a face shield without first putting these tips to the test.