Mask or shield: Infectious disease expert weighs in on ‘mask up’ options

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – With more mask mandates being enforced in central Indiana, people are looking for additional ways to “mask up” in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

While face masks have become part of our new normal, face shields are an increasingly popular option.

A recent social media poll points to 74% of people saying they opt for a mask while 7% reach for a shield. And 20% say they wear both, which is what infectious disease expert Dr. Christopher Belcher at Ascension St. Vincent recommends.

Dr. Belcher says while both are protective, they each provide different protection.

“A face mask covers the nose and mouth, it’s multi-layer, and it’s good at keeping secretions from spreading,” Dr. Belcher said.

On the other hand, a face shield covers the eye area from a cough or sneeze, it can keep any particles off of the mask, and be easily cleaned. Another plus side is that it lets you breathe a lot easier. A benefit Dr. Belcher says comes with a warning.

“Those smaller particles might be able to find their way in and under a face shield,” he added.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not yet recommending face shields as a substitute for face masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

This means despite any benefit from a face shield, Dr. Belcher says, “I think if you want more protection, then a face shield is helpful. If you have to pick one of the two, I would pick the mask.”

For those wanting to wear a face shield, the CDC recommends using use one that hits below the chin and covers the sides of the face.

For more CDC guidelines, click here.