A video posted online showed a female OFW at the Qatar airport saying they were being instructed to throw away their face shields. A passenger on a Tokyo flight onboard a Japanese airline noting the non-mandatory wearing of a face shield. A Pinoy student in Beijing wondering why there’s no one wearing a face shield in a park. If there’s an accessory in this pandemic that became so “polarizing” that even health experts couldn’t decide if it is really useful or not, it is the face shield.
At the start of the pandemic, the face shield was touted as an “armor” – a first-line defense against an unseen enemy. It was required to be worn at all times, whether you are seated inside a jeepney, doing transactions in a bank, or shopping for groceries.
It has its benefits supported by studies, showing how face shields can cut the exposure to aerosols in the atmosphere. However, there were no studies that showed a 100 percent effectivity, and nowhere in the world can we see a face shield substituting for a face mask. A study from the Florida Atlantic University concluded that the “clear plastic face shields blocked the initial forward motion of the jet of droplets… but once expelled they were able to move around the visor relatively easily and spread out over a large area.” In short, a mask trumps a shield, but a mask plus a shield may be more effective in confined spaces, not in outdoor settings.
There is no logic in wearing a face shield outdoors as a face mask is already sufficient to protect the wearer. Even the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has marked an “x” beside a face shield illustration, noting that “it may be used in addition to a mask… but may not be as effective at protecting you or the people around you” and “not recommended for normal everyday activities.”
This is also perhaps the reason, though belatedly, that the President decided to finally lift the mandatory requirement on the use of face shields outdoors. It will, like the CDC guidelines, be used in places that are “closed, crowded, or close-contact” or packaged as the “3 Cs.” Visiting a hospital or a clinic? Then a face shield over a face mask is still a must.
Critics of the use of a face shield welcomed the news, referring to its inconvenience and ineffectiveness. They have noted that a lot of Filipinos walking outdoors use the face shield as a sun visor or even a hair clip. On the hand, some have said that they would still continue to wear one as daily new COVID-19 cases hover over 15,000. This is perfectly fine, too, as we have our own ways to fight the virus.
On a transparency aspect, the issue here is not the face shield per se. Majority are irritated because the face shield was literally “shoved” on our faces without any scientific basis that it is 100 percent effective outdoors. Afterward, we hear multiple accounts of corruption, overpricing, and ghost deliveries of these face shields, with a bulk of our pandemic response budget not even benefiting our local manufacturers and workers.
It is no wonder that some netizens have said these face shields only blurred our vision, with us not even aware that “corruption is in front of our eyes.” With this new “ditch-the-shield-outdoors” policy, it gives us a chance to finally open our eyes and be shielded from ignorance and, in these times of belt tightening, be shielded from unnecessary expense.