Here's what you need to know about the protective face coverings that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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As you know by now, many major companies are requiring customers to wear face masks while shopping. In some cases, other face-covering options, including shields, are also acceptable. Before you buy new a new face cover, however, it's important to know that face shields and face masks are not the same and don't offer equal protection. Here's everything you need to know about the two coverings to help you decide which one is best for you.

Grocery worker wearing a face shield and customer wearing a face mask
Credit: Tempura/Getty Images

Who Should Wear a Face Mask?

Since April 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. The agency recommends that anyone over the age of 2 wear a cloth face mask. (If you're deaf or hard of hearing, clear face masks offer are an excellent alternative.) Research shows that cloth coverings reduce the number of droplets from the nose and mouth from traveling into the air. Just yesterday, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, said in a news release that, "Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus."

You can make your own cloth face mask or buy one of the many options available online. The agency notes that surgical face masks are considered critical supplies and should be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders. Those who cannot wear a mask, including children under the age of 2 or anyone who cannot take off the mask by themselves, can practice social distancing.

When Should You Wear a Face Shield?

Unfortunately, it is still unknown if face shields prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the CDC, face shields are not an acceptable substitute for cloth face masks, and they shouldn't be worn for everyday activities. However, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says it won't hurt to wear one. "You have mucosa in the nose, mucosa in the mouth, but you also have mucosa in the eye," Fauci told ABC News on an Instagram Live. "Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces. So if you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it."

If you decide to wear one, which you can buy for $25 on Amazon, the agency says that it "should wrap around the sides of the wearer's face and extend to below the chin." If your shield is disposable, make sure to discard it after use, and if it's reusable, disinfect it after each time you wear it.

Of the two options, cloth face masks are recommended by the CDC and are proven to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Whenever you head out to run errands, you should wear one to protect yourself and those around you.


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