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Viral Questions: Face shields instead of masks and getting COVID twice

Viral Questions: Face shields instead of masks and getting COVID twice

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Face shields

The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

Can I use a face shield instead of a mask?

No. Health officials don’t recommend the clear plastic barriers as a substitute for masks because of the lack of research on whether they keep an infected person from spreading viral droplets to others.

However, those who want extra protection may want to wear a face shield in addition to a mask.

Face shields have the added benefit of protecting your eyes and discouraging you from touching your face by acting as a physical barrier, says Christopher Sulmonte, project administrator of the biocontainment unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Meanwhile, the available research so far indicates that the best face shields for preventing viral spread are hooded or wrap around the sides and bottom of the face, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because those shields leave less space for droplets from sneezing, coughing and talking to escape.

If you do wear a reusable face shield in addition to a mask, the CDC notes the importance of cleaning it after each use. The agency also says you should wash your hands before and after taking it off, and avoid touching your face while removing it.

Can I get the coronavirus twice?

It seems possible, though how often it happens isn’t known.

Researchers in Hong Kong recently reported evidence of a person who got the coronavirus a second time, months after an initial infection.

The finding has not yet been published in a journal. But scientists said the 33-year-old man had mild symptoms the first time and none the second time, suggesting his immune system may have provided some protection against serious illness even if it could not prevent a reinfection. His more recent infection was detected through screening and testing at the Hong Kong airport, and researchers said genetic tests revealed different strains of the virus.

Several other possible cases have been reported, including a U.S. man who was sicker the second time than the first.

Even if people can get reinfected, the World Health Organization says it likely wouldn’t happen regularly.

Health experts generally believe people who had COVID-19 will have some immunity against a repeat infection. But they don’t know how much protection, or how long it would last.

This is important because if immunity wears off, it could pose a challenge for vaccines. Some experts say booster shots may be needed.

It’s also unclear whether reinfected people would be able to spread the virus to others. That’s another reason scientists say people should continue to wear masks, social distance and practice good hygiene.

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