The return of face shields? Eyebrows raised on DepEd’s guidelines for physical classes

The national government allows voluntary use of face shields in areas under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3 as the Philippines experiences a further increase in COVID-19 infections in January 2022. (The STAR/Walter Bollozos)

The return of face shields?

One of the guidelines released by the Department of Education for the full shift to physical classes has sparked questions and concerns from social media users.

The Department of Education listed guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in light of anticipated face-to-face interactions between students, teachers and staff.

These can be seen in DepEd Order 34 (2022 series).

The first directive relates to the use of face shields, which have not been voluntary since last year. It reads:

“Face masks will be mandatory when classes reopen. A face shield can be used in place of a face mask for activities that require an individual’s entire face to be visible.

Plastic barriers have been made voluntary under COVID-19 Alert Levels 1-3 since November 2021.

However, commercial establishments and employers have the option of requiring its use on their premises.

Even so, protective gear has become a rare sight, as the majority of regions have been in the lowest alert levels for some time now.

But its return to classrooms has raised concerns among some Filipinos who have pointed out that the virus can be transmitted through the air.

“Protective mask? Do you not accept the airborne transmission of COVID? A perfect face shield. Gastos”, a twitter user commented in response to the guideline.

“Din pad face shield?” ‘Di bamaring ng-aaral angina na nagpapatunay na ‘di nakakatulong ang face sheld dahil ang COVID is airborne?” another online user partly written.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte said the agency is now planning for some type of blended learning in some areas. However, the order to have physical classes by November still stands.

What the experts say

Meanwhile, doctors have previously suggested the government should strictly implement wearing face masks, practicing adequate ventilation in institutions, physical distancing and vaccination against COVID-19.

The suggestions came after the government raised the possibility of re-imposing compulsory wearing of face shields after the Omicron variant was labeled as a “variant of concern”.

Face shields began to be mandatory in the country in December 2020 as a way to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

However, studies have noted that it is not helpful as the virus is airborne in nature. For comparison, aerosol transmission was compared to the behavior of cigarette smoke in the air.

A 2020 study published in the journal Physics of Fluids found that although face shields block the initial forward movement of a cough or sneeze, expelled droplets can travel around the visor “with relative ease and spread over a large area”.

The simulation carried out by the researchers showed that droplets had remained suspended at the bottom of the shield and spread to the front and sides of the dummy used for the study.

“For the face shield simulation, the shield first deflected the droplets to the ground after a cough. But small droplets hung on the bottom of the shield, then floated to the sides, eventually spilling over approximately 0.9 meters in front and to the sides of the dummy. In some cases, the droplets traveled rearward, behind the dummy, instead of forward,” the authors said.

Two experts also said face shields don’t fit ‘well’ and that ‘aerosols can still come in and out around the outside of a face shield, where it’s not fitted the same way as a face shield. a mask”.

wind engineer Joshua Hagar from the University of the Philippines also argued that plastic barriers could do more harm than good.

“Trend is negative pressure region with face shields so nag-a-act siya like suction so hinihigop niya kung ano man ‘yung nasa air so most likely pati ‘yung virus,” he said. said in an interview in 2021.

He added that the direction of the air changes around the head by the formation of air masses that look like vortices between the face and the shield.

These clumps tend to trap air, increasing the risk of inhaling the virus.

A doctor recalled some of Hagar’s posts where the latter shared simulations involving face shields.

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