The ultimate guide to COVID-19 face shields

People are turning to face shields to protect themselves from COVID-19

The ultimate guide to COVID-19 face shields
A health worker wears a face mask and shield - Photo: Luis Robayo / AFP
English 04/06/2020 14:59 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 15:41

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Transparent plastic face shields against coronavirus have become one of the most popular personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico.

Since the arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in our country, the list of essential items to go out on the streets, such as keys or a cellphone, now includes masks, hand sanitizer, and, most recently, face shields.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that one of the ways to get infected with coronavirus is through the eyes. Hence, it is of utmost importance not to touch your face with dirty hands.

Face shields for COVID-19 have a double use: They prevent you from touching your face and are a protective barrier for your eyes.

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Nevertheless, it is very important for you to consider that there will still be a risk of getting COVID-19. Face shields and masks are measures suggested in case you have to be in a public place. So far, the most effective measure to prevent infections is to stay home.

There are several doubts regarding the use of face shields to protect ourselves from coronavirus: What are they made of? How should they be cleaned? Where do they sell them? How much do they cost?

Differences between PET, PETG, PVC and acetate face shields
Face shields can be made from different materials, such as acetate, PET, and PVC among others.

Hugo Vargas Vargas, an industrial designer from the Technological University of Mexico, explains the different characteristics of each of these materials.

PET
It is the most used plastic in the world. It is a plastic polymer obtained from ethylene and paraxylene.

It can be used in fabrics, foods, and products like face shields. Moreover, it is cheap and light.

An advantage of PET is that it can be recycled so it is more friendly with the environment.

PETG
It is a versatile material mainly used for 3D printing. It is a resistant plastic filament.

Due to its durability, PETG is used to make the headbands of face shields, whereas PET can be used as the protective layer.

PVC
This material is widely used in modern manufacturing.

It is used in daily life in cars, gardens, and packages.

Due to its easy handling, it became popular for products like face shields, where it can provide protection.

Acetate
It is one of the most commonly used polymers since it is cheap and easy to handle.

It is used in COVID-19 face shields in different calibers depending on where the face shields are meant to be used.

Its transparent and hard appearance has made it popular during the pandemic.

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What is the adequate caliber for a face shield?
Besides the material, one of the important aspects to consider when purchasing a face shield is the caliber of the plastic.

In that vein, Hugo Vargas mentioned that the caliber for PETG face shields must be 1.5mm, those made from PVC must be 2.0 mm, those made from PET must be 2.0 mm, and those made from acetate must be 0.76 mm.

“The caliber provides higher protection and durability, however, if it is meant for medical use, it is best to choose a light material since workdays are long,” he said.

Regarding the most transparent material for a face shield, the Industrial Engineer explained that all the materials mentioned are transparent, however, due to its caliber, acetate is the first one to get damaged with time and use.

As of the porosity of each material, Hugo Vargas Vargas said that acetate is more fragile due to its caliber.

“From these three materials, acetate is the most porous and hence, it can incubate a higher number of bacterias,” he said.

Regarding acetate face shields, the industrial designer said “I don’t think of it as the best option for producing face shields if it is not an acetate that has an adequate caliber for protection.”

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How much do face shields cost? Where to buy them?
In Mexico, the sale of face shields began online in websites like Mercado Libre or Amazon, and through social networks like Facebook where hundreds of users offer their products.

Currently, plastic face shields can be purchased in public markets, electronic stores, department stores, and even with street vendors.

The price of COVID-19 face shields varies a lot depending on the material, the caliber, and the design.

The most simple ones start at MXN 20; they are usually made with a caliber 15 or 12 and despite offering good visibility, they are not quite rigid.

Some more sophisticated designs are foldable. They are made in 3D printers, have a better finish, and the material is of a higher caliber. The cost of this kind of face shield goes from MXN 70 to 200.

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Caps with face shield, the object of desire for the new normal
The new normal after coronavirus will not be brief. To explain it with a metaphor, let us say that the lockdown was  10km race and the new normal is a marathon. We have to be prepared.

According to Google Trends, during recent weeks, one of the most searched terms about coronavirus in Mexico are caps with face shields and face shields for children.

The COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the economic activity and many people have had to adapt their businesses to the new normal.

During recent weeks, we have heard about several stories of indigenous communities, people who lost their jobs, or who are in vulnerable situations, who saw an opportunity in producing masks. The same is happening with face shields.

Several companies changed their production lines and began to produce face shields.

Currently, you can find face shields with masks, caps with face shields, face shields for children and adults decorated with emojis, and different drawings.

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How to disinfect a plastic COVID-19 face shield?
One of the advantages of face shields is that they are reusable.

Investing in a good quality face shield with a high caliber and cleaning it properly will make it last longer.

Hugo Vargas Vargas recommends disinfecting protective face shields by cleaning them with a cloth and alcohol.

“Since face shields are made with plastic, it is best to prevent them from turning opaque or from having scratches by cleaning them with a cloth wand alcohol or Lysol,” he stressed.

Another option is to clean them with liquid soap and dry them with a dry cloth similar to those used for glasses so as not to damage the plastic.

If the face shield is made with good quality materials, there is no risk of the alcohol staining the plastic.

A tip to prevent the plastic from fogging is to apply some kind of adhesive film or spraying it with soapy water so that it happens less frequently.

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