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COVID-19 Questions: Mask vs. Face Shield

Face Mask vs. Face Shield

Staying protected and slowing the spread of the coronavirus have become top priorities for most Americans during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Just a few months ago, most people had never even thought about wearing cloth face masks outdoors. Now, face masks have become an essential part of any outfit. Diligent citizens have gotten into the habit of wearing face masks every time they leave their homes.

Not only does wearing a face mask in addition to following social distancing rules help reduce your risk of getting infected, it prevents you from potentially infecting other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth mask anytime you are outside your home and in a public space. But a strong contender has been gaining popularity: face shields.

Mask vs. Face Shield

Are cloth face masks effective at protecting you against coronavirus? What makes n95 masks different and how does their filtering ability measure up to other types of masks? Does adding a filter to basic cloth masks enhance their protection capability? Are plastic face shields a better alternative? How much of your face and head should a face shield cover? Our movers in North Texas have compiled a series of facts and information that help answer those COVID-19 questions for you.

The CDC Recommends Wearing Cloth Masks

There is no general consensus among scientists on the effectiveness of cloth masks at protecting from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, the CDC recommends wearing cloth masks to reduce the risk of getting infected and protect others.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) on the other hand has not made a recommendation for or against wearing cloth face masks. It has provided advice on the use of masks.

“Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19. However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection, and other measures should also be adopted. Whether or not masks are used, maximum compliance with hand hygiene and other IPC measures is critical to prevent human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.” – World Health Organization2

There Are Many Face Mask Options To Choose From

Despite its stance on regular citizens wearing masks, WHO recommends health care workers wear medical-grade masks such as an N95 mask, FFP2 mask, or an equivalent. The organization stressed the critical importance of medical masks and respirators be prioritized for health care workers.2

If you are an essential worker or are working in a healthcare setting, especially one where COVID-19 patients are being treated, wearing an N95 mask, FFP2 mask, or another medical-grade alternative is essential. Regular citizens can also obtain N95 masks, but they will have to pay a hefty price due to global shortages. N95 masks are respirators designed to block 95% of very small particles.3

A more consumer-friendly alternative to N95 masks are cloth masks with filter inserts. Recent research suggests that cloth face masks with added filters provide extra protection to wearers when out in public. Masks with additional layers of HEPA filter were shown to block up to 80% to 90% of particles.4

Face Shields May Be More Effective Than Masks

An increasingly popular alternative to masks is plastic protective face shields. Already widely used by hospital workers and medical professionals, regular consumers can easily access face shields that are not medical grade. Compared to cloth face masks, plastic face shields are not as porous, and they are easy to disinfect. They are also incredibly comfortable to wear.

While there haven’t been any recent studies on how effective face shields are at protecting against SARS-CoV-2, they have been shown to greatly reduce a person’s viral exposure to a cough.5 Likely the best way to protect yourself while out in public is by following hand hygiene and social distancing rules as well as properly wearing a cloth face mask with filter and plastic face shield.

“For optimal protection, the shield should extend below the chin anteriorly, to the ears laterally, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield’s headpiece.” – Dr. Eli Perencevich, Dr. Daniel Diekema, and Dr. Michael Edmond 6


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Use Cloth Face Coverings To Help Slow The Spread
  2. World Health Organization (WHO) – Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19
  3. Mayo Clinic – COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
  4. Maura Hohman, Today.com – Do you need a filter for your homemade face mask?
  5. Hilary Brueck, Business Insider – Face shields may be better than homemade masks. Here’s why we should all try one on.
  6. Eli Perencevich, Dr. Daniel Diekema, and Dr. Michael Edmond, JAMA – Moving Personal Protective Equipment Into the Community