I WANT to talk about the face shield. Because I am severely nearsighted, I need to wear this over my thick prescription glasses. As I wear the thing, the face shield becomes an air barrier (like a windshield). So, without air circulation in that space between my glasses and the surface of the face shield, the condensation from my breathing fogs up the face shield, including my glasses. The result is that my vision is hampered. Of course what should be done to fix this “problem,” is to wipe the condensation off. So I take the face shield off, take my glasses off, out comes the handkerchief – to wipe the condensation off the lens of the glasses, then I wipe the fogged-up surface of the shield, as I repeat the darned steps every time it happens (and often), and so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.
What am I driving at here? That the face shield does not stay on my face all the time. That I do take it off because of the need to get rid of the accumulated condensation. By doing so, whatever protection it purports to do by way of keeping the virus from entering through the eyes is diminished, perhaps even negated, because of the frequent act of pulling it down. The fact is that it never stays on. Yes, because it is the rule, people bring it with them all the time. You know, “no face mask, no face shield, no ride,” and all that. But other than the necessity to have something to show so that one can enter an establishment or use public transport, the face shield is just a silly looking visor that stays on top of a person’s head. All the time.
Look. There is this background noise that keeps droning inside the mall all day long. “Pakisuot po ng maayos ang inyong mga face shield mga ma’am at sir” (Please wear your face shields properly). At some point, the person with the megaphone will admonish a person whose face shield is tilted upwards to pull his or her face shield down (“pakibaba po ang inyong face shield”). Scarcely three meters away from the megaphone, the face shield is tilted up again, and the droning goes on until closing time. First of all, you have to give it to these mall “minders.” They do have their work cut out for them even if the work seems futile. There really is no efficient way to enforce compliance short of placing the individual under arrest (which you can’t do), or bodily drag the person out of the establishment (which you can’t do either), because tilting face shields up and down is not a crime, as much as a person who refuses to be vaccinated cannot be arrested because it is also not a crime.
Notice that the only matter of contention here is the face shield. Over a year into the pandemic, the public have gotten used to wearing face masks that there is no longer a need for blaring reminders. Of course we recall the infamous herding of violators of the face mask rule for a lecture on the importance of complying with the face mask rule. I have had trouble with the face mask myself very early into the enactment of the rule. Breathing out, the air escapes through the edges where the mask makes contact with the nose, again fogging-up my glasses. But with an array of mask selections today, I believe I have found a few mask “designs” that resolve this fogging problem somewhat.
Besides, we seem to have come to an agreement that the masks help keep the virus from spreading. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said so, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said so, too. Neither the CDC nor Dr. Fauci have made references to face shields as a protective implement to be worn outside the hospital setting. So, yes. The face shield is indeed a device that provides an additional layer of protection for medical practitioners working in a highly infectious environment. For this reason, there is no doubt that the face shield – worn on top of a face mask, with a doctor or medical practitioner garbed in a personal protective suit – is effective. And these are kept on until the end of their shifts. But to ask the general public to wear the device outside a hospital setting seems counter-intuitive.
It is true the IATF have said that the face shield will provide additional protection from infection aside from the face mask, such that its use becomes even more imperative in view of the more transmissible Delta variant. They are right, you know. After all, we have seen face shields being worn when epidemiologists were deployed to contain the Ebola outbreak years ago. Thus, the question of efficacy is not directed at the device itself, but whether the wearing of it by the general public is truly efficient.
This shield-on, shield-off business does not really obtain the true benefit of the device. However, the IATF wants us to comply based only on their say-so, which is to say that better the inconvenience of wearing the vision-hampering face shield than to be hooked up on a ventilator. But that is just the problem, isn’t it? How many of us have really complied with our mothers when they follow their directives with “because I said so?” I know that I have challenged my own mother many times just because I resent being ordered around without any reason behind it.
We, Filipinos, have a truly strange way of demonstrating “exceptionalism.” One day, when these face shields are no longer needed and we are forced to discard them, we all would know where the huge volume of accumulated plastic waste came from: the Philippines.