To protect yourself from the virus that causes COVID-19, do you need to wear goggles or a face shield? The simple answer is no. It does help to shield you but it is not necessary unless you will be exposed to a lot of people, like a server in a restaurant.
I wear either one in the emerg to reduce the risk that the virus will sneak in through my eyes when I am dealing with someone who is positive for the virus, but I also wear a mask. That is a vitally important point. My goggles cover my eyes and wrap around on top and on the sides; if I wear a face-shield it extends from my forehead to below my chin and around the sides of my face to my ears.
A study from Switzerland looked at serving staff in a hotel who developed COVID-19. Those wearing just a face shield fell sick. Those wearing a face shield and a mask did not. The message: hand-washing, social distancing and wearing a mask are of paramount importance. Wearing a face shield or goggles is not unreasonable but doesn’t replace them.
If 249 plus me equals 250 — the new number of people allowed to be together — how safe will that be? Well, it depends. The people to be most concerned about are those within a two-metre radius of you. Are they masked? Did they wash their hands on the way in?
Ventilation is a concern indoors. The system needs to regularly circulate air that is mixed with fresh air from outside and passes through high efficiency filters. Going from 50 people to 250 gives us a chance to see if people can deal with this increase. Will security work? Will people follow the guidelines? Will there be a spike in community transmission in spite of all the precautions?
To move forward we have to be willing to take careful steps. If we do this right we will be safe. There are certain situations where, even with precautions in place, I would be more worried about, like sporting events where people scream and shout and religious gatherings where people sing. Any situation where voices are raised increases risk and should be specially watched.
Lastly, how long is this all going to last? Tough question but I suspect we’re in for the long haul. This virus seems to be following the MERS coronavirus model (which is still circulating) as opposed to SARS (which disappeared on its own). But before we panic, age brings perspective and I hope wisdom.
Polio ravaged communities, often killing and maiming. Every spring was dreaded. No one knew how it spread. Fear and superstition ruled. All that changed once we knew that it was caused by a virus, how it spread and then a vaccine was developed. That process took decades.
We figured out the genetic code of this virus within months and we have more than a 100 different vaccines being evaluated. Once we have a vaccine that works we should be where we are now with polio, a population that can go about its normal activities without fear. We still have a distance to go but if we stay the course we are well on the way to getting our lives back.
Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.