Face shield talks should include other experts, civil engineer says

Face shield talks should include other experts, civil engineer says
This undated photo shows passengers at a public transportation wearing face masks and face shields, which had been made mandatory as a preventive measure against the COVID-19
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A wind dynamics expert has called for a wider range of insights on the country's discussion on using face shields, and not just from those in the medical field.

The Philippines mandated the wearing of face shield on top of face mask in December last year. That policy has since faced calls to scrap, but authorities have insisted it gives additional protection against COVID-19. 

In June, Senate President Vicente Sotto III sought for a probe in the chamber on whether face shields truly work in helping prevent infections. 

Civil engineer Joshua Agar hopes that avenue would not be monopolized by just medical professionals. He told Philstar.com that face shields are more of a physical intervention rather than a medical one. 

"They need to merit and allow expert opinion coming from other fields," he said. "Especially us who know face shields intervene."

Agar explained that its use is recommended in hospitals, especially for those treating coronavirus patients. But he said it should no longer apply to those outside medical facilities who are also following other health protocols. 

"People wearing face masks are already being cautious," Agar said in Filipino. "So face masks mainly stop huge droplets and face shields then become unnecessary."

The wind dynamics expert suggested that, contrary to its purpose, face shields may instead increase the chance of transmission. He said particles could accumulate in the region underneath the face shield due to negative pressure. 

The virus, Agar added, could also be carried through smaller droplets which act as aerosols that are usually suspended in the air and carried by wind. 

"In a nutshell, in wind flow, you have the windward region and leeward region," he said. In the former, Agar said there is positive pressure where particles are quick to disperse in the air. 

Negative pressure, on the other hand, is in former where suspended particles accumulate. 

"Face masks should be maintained to prevent droplets," Agar added. "Apart from that, physical distancing should also be followed to prevent being infected."

'Shared responsibility'

In a Senate hearing in June, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they would begin studies on dropping face shields when COVID-19 vaccinations improve. 

Government data by July 28 showed there are now 10.40% or 7.27 million Filipinos complete with their shots. 

That is out of the target of 70 million inoculated this year. Some 16.33% or 11.43 million, meanwhile, have received their first dose. 

Groups have urged government to end using face shields. But despite the calls, a public health expert maintained it still offers collective protection against the virus.

University of Santo Tomas professor Cheryl Peralta said no single intervention would work entirely to curb cases.

"Several interventions used together allow for collective and complementary protection against the virus," said Peralta, who has a doctorate in public health, "with the attempt to cover the holes or imperfections in each individual strategy."

She acknowledged that measures such as wearing face shields may cause discomfort, but nonetheless remain "worth it."

"Protection against coronavirus is a shared responsibility," Peralta said. "We adhere to protocols because we want to protect ourselves and others, even if it is inconvenient or entails cost because we know that prevention is still better than cure."

President Rodrigo Duterte last month ordered that face shields be used both indoors and outdoors.

The government made the move citing the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19. By July 29, health officials said there are now 216 confirmed cases of the highly infectious variant in the country, with local transmission underway. — Philstar.com intern Siegfred Aldous Lacerna

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