Talks on replacing face shield policy with use of goggles raise eyebrows

November 9, 2021 - 3:12 PM
Quezon City worker in PPE
Personnel from the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and the City Health Department train to wear personal protective equipment on March 13 2020. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

A fresh wave of concerns was hurled at the health department after it said that the “possibility” of mandating the wearing of goggles in lieu of face shields to prevent COVID-19 transmission is part of its conversation with health experts.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this while explaining that the Department of Health and experts are reevaluating the mandated wearing of shields.

She said that googles protect the eyes from aerosols and respiratory droplets.

“Iyan talaga ang direction ng pag-uusap. Primarily, kaya natin minandate na ang face shields ay gamitin natin for us to protect our eyes because there are evidence to state na ang COVID-19 can also penetrate ang eyes natin at pwede tayo maimpeksyon,” Vergeire was quoted as saying on Monday.

“Pinaguusapan lahat ito, the possibility of these goggles and the others, nandiyan po iyan,” she added.

The health agency will submit its new recommendation regarding the face shield policy to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Thursday.

Vergeire also said that local government units should wait for the recommendation before they issue orders to make the plastic gear optional in their jurisdictions.

“We urge local governments to just hold their executive orders or issuances so we can all be uniform in our implementation and we are all aligned,” she said.

The health official said that the Department of Interior and Local Government is in charge of dealing with the local government units which would prematurely lift the face shield mandate.

How about eyeglass wearers? 

The discussion about the wearing of goggles for COVID-19 prompted concerns from eyeglass wearers who complained about experiencing struggles with the current mandatory use of face shields.

“‘Yung struggle ko as (someone) wearing glasses tapos goggles ngayon?? Isa bang malaking laboratory ang Pilipinas for us to wear goggles? Well, we’re like guinea pigs naman being played the government, so what’s the difference?,” a Twitter user said in response to recent reports.

“Parang mas malala ang goggles kesa sa face shield. So paano na kaming naka-eyeglasses? Sana naman tingnan nila lahat ng aspect, like health, safety and comfort ng mga tao,” another online user wrote.

Others expressed concern that goggles would cost the Filipinos more than face shields.

“Mas mahal ‘yang goggles, mas malaki na naman balak ninyong kitain sa mga tao?” a Twitter user commented.

“Mas mahal ang price ng goggles kesa face shield. Maawa naman kayo sa mga Pilipino. Wala na nga makain, eto pa hahati sa kakarampot na sahod ng tao,” another online user wrote, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unemployment and affected workers, especially daily wage earners.

Only in hospital settings

Some members of the medical community likewise expressed disapproval at the idea of wearing protective eye gear in everyday settings.

“Would like these proponents to wear goggles even for one week lang so they would realize how these are even more difficult and uncomfortable compared to wearing face shields,” physician Jai Cabajar tweeted.

“Sinong expert na naman ba ito? Puwede ba evidence-based lang tayo? The goggles are only useful when you handle COVID patients especially if you do aerosol-generating procedures. Walang silbi ‘yan if you are outside the hospital,” Twitter user Tom, who specializes in renal medicine, wrote.

“You’re MUCH LESS LIKELY to get COVID through your eyes,” physician Jonathan Sy tweeted in response to the reports.

Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, also reshared website links saying that health experts do not recommend the wearing of goggles and face shields in everyday activities.

“Sa ibang bansa , third dose or booster shots ang focus… sa atin sa Pilipinas, face shield pa rin ang ating usapin,” he tweeted.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only requires its healthcare workers to don eye protection in “areas of substantial to high transmission.”

“In healthcare settings, eye protection is used by HCP (healthcare personnel) to protect their eyes from exposure to splashes, sprays, splatter, and respiratory secretions,” it said on its website.

An article from the Medical News Today last June said that a person “may acquire an eye infection with SARS-CoV-2 if they touch a contaminated surface and then touch their eye.”

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus causing COVID-19.

The article cited the US CDC which emphasized the importance of handwashing and avoiding touching one’s nose, mouth, and eyes with unwashed hands.

The report also said that maintaining physical distance and wearing a face mask is also important as a protective measure against COVID-19.