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Back 2 School: Face shields vs. masks in the classroom

HOUSTON – As we get ready to head back to school, we wanted to look into one of the options that might be available in the classroom to keep schools healthy. In particular, face coverings.

The Texas Education Agency bought millions of pieces of personal protective equipment to prepare for the new school year. Of course, on the list is face masks but they have also requested face shields and several of you have asked if they’re effective.

KPRC 2 asked Alison Haddock, MD, with Baylor College of Medicine for her advice.

“I think face shields are a good alternative to masks in a situation and for people for whom masks might be a bit of a challenge,” Haddock explained. “Especially for people who may have hearing difficulties and need to see faces and facial expressions, face shields can be a good option.”

She mentioned people with sensory issues may also prefer shields.

Scrolling through online retailers, there are a lot of options for face shields in a variety of styles but they are not all the same at protecting you. Haddock said to go for maximum coverage.

“So that means it needs to go back to your ear and it needs to go down past your chin. It needs to start up fairly well above your eyes. A smaller face shield is going to be less protective against droplets,” Haddock said.

If you are a teacher wearing these shields, or just wearing one for personal use, cleaning is key.

“You want to take it off carefully and also probably consider your hands to be contaminated. Take it off and wipe this down with an antiseptic wipe if you have one, or if you don’t have that use soap and water in the sink. Make sure you wash your hands very thoroughly afterward as well,” she said.

The TEA hasn’t said yet what districts will get face shields or how they might be used.

As for the current mask order, according to guidelines, face shields are an okay substitute.