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Advice on Whether Face Shields be Used in Place of Face Masks?


Face masks offer protection by reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in places (public transit, grocery stores) where it may not be possible to keep a 2-metres distance from other people. While masks do not protect the wearer, they protect those around them by preventing respiratory secretions from entering the air.

To be effective, face masks must be worn properly. They must also be combined with other critical public health measures such as physical distancing, observing proper hand hygiene, and staying home when sick.

Most provinces across Canada have made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces and public transport. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a three-layer non-medical mask. It should include a layer of filter material between two layers of tightly woven fabric, such as cotton or linen.

How do face shields work?

Face shields protect the eyes, nose, mouth from liquids such as chemicals, saliva, blood or flying objects as debris, metal cuttings. They have a strap that can be secured to your head and a plastic see-through visor that covers the face.

Ideally, your face shield should extend below your chin and above your eyes and wrap around the sides of your face. It is important to choose a face shield that fits your face.

Can Face Shields be Used in Place of Face Masks?

No. Public health experts say face shields do not offer the same measure of protection and cannot replace face masks.

Masks (medical and non-medical) securely cover the nose and chin and can restrict the spread of respiratory droplets when people talk, sneeze or cough. Face shields are open on the sides of the face and below the chin. They do not protect you from inhaling other people’s respiratory droplets. Neither do they prevent your respiratory droplets from entering the air.

However, they can be used in addition to a face mask. Face shields can protect the eyes and mask from dust, debris, or liquid splashes.

In what cases can face shields be used?

In cases where people are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons, they may opt for a face shield. Face shields are better than having no protection.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says face shields are not a good substitute for face masks. They do not protect the wearer from inhaling other people’s respiratory droplets or aerosols. But they can be used a last resort if someone is unable to wear a non-medical mask due to medical reasons or due to a disability. When using a face shield, make sure it extends below the chin and covers the sides of the face.

Even when you are wearing a face shield, you must maintain physical distancing of 2 metres, and practice good hand hygiene.

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