Coronavirus question: How do masks compare to face shields?

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WATCH: Global's Brittney Matejka talks with the University of Saskatchewan's Dr. Joseph Blondeau about different types of face coverings. – Sep 28, 2020

Face masks are becoming increasingly prevalent across Saskatchewan as the economy reopens and the cold weather begins settling in.

Global News caught up with Dr. Joseph Blondeau, the clinical head of microbiology at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, to get his advice when it comes to face coverings.

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Knowing that masks help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by catching droplets from our mouths and noses, Blondeau said finding one the fits properly is key.

While there has been an uptake in masks, many people aren’t wearing ones that are snug on their faces, he said.

A poor fit creates an opportunity for infection, he said.

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“You shouldn’t have any gaps on the sides or at the top or anywhere where air particles or droplets,” which could be carrying the actual virus, can actually get in, Blondeau said.

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When it comes to the thickness of a mask’s fabric, there is no consensus as the only standardization to date is regarding medical masks, such as the N95 respirators and surgical masks worn in healthcare environments.

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“I think, in general, it’s probably safe to assume that a bit more material might be more of a barrier than a thinner material,” Blondeau said. “But the reality is is that we don’t have an adequate measure to determine what the effectiveness is of one mask versus another.”

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And as for face shields, there is split opinion around their efficacy.

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“Some are advocating that a more snugger fitting mask, which eliminates the possibility of particles getting in, is more effective,” Blondeau said, adding that masks tend to capture moisture, too, where face shields do not.

“Not capturing that moisture could be a hazard, particularly if droplets get on your hands or if you’re touching and there’s droplets that actually drop down below the face shield,” he said.

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While there are partial face shields covering just the mouth and nose available at some stores, “they probably are not as good an alternative as would be a good, tight, form-fitting mask,” Blondeau said.

But again, there is a lack of data to validate masks as better than face shields, he said.

“It really comes down to a matter of an opinion and what some of those opinions are saying is that a nice, tighter-fitting mask that actually is capturing these droplets is probably a better alternative,” Blondeau said.

— With files from Global’s Brittney Matejka