The use of goggles and double face masks in lieu of face shields is being considered, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Tuesday, as experts are finalizing their recommendation on wearing of face shields in enclosed spaces.
That, although there appears to be a new wave of concern after the DOH confirmed the direction of talks between their officials and experts.
Vergeire, replying to a question Monday, said goggles use was part of talks between the Department of Health and health experts reevaluating evidence on protection offered by face shields.
The DOH official said: “We mandated the use of face shields primarily to protect our eyes, because evidence shows we can get the infection through our eyes. We are talking about all these, such as the possibility of the use of goggles and others.”
She said the DOH would submit its updated recommendation on face shield use to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Thursday. In the meantime, local government units were told to enforce the mandate.
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.
Others expressed concern that goggles would cost the Filipinos more than face shields.
Some members of the medical community also expressed disapproval at the idea of wearing protective eye gear in everyday settings.
“Would like these proponents to wear goggles even for one week so they would realize how these are even more difficult and uncomfortable compared to wearing face shields,” physician Jai Cabajar tweeted.
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.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only requires US 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.
Malacañang on Tuesday urged local government units to respect President Rodrigo Duterte’s current policy on the wearing of face shields in the country.
This, after Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso signed an executive order limiting the mandatory use of face shields to “hospital setting, medical clinics, and other medical facilities.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque appealed to LGUs to wait for the final decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID), which will also be approved by Duterte.
Roque cautioned that a new face shield policy issued by any LGU might prompt the public to disregard Duterte’s directive to continue wearing it in enclosed spaces.
Despite Malacañang’s stance against his EO, Domagoso said he had no plan to lift the order.
He said the issuance of his city order was in accordance with the Local Government Code, which allows every LGU to “exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.”
Domagoso on Tuesday challenged the national government to go to court if they wanted to stop the city government from imposing its face-shield policy.
“If they are not happy, they can go to court and ask for declaratory relief. But our decision will stay,” Moreno said, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano seemed to agree with Domagoso, saying in a separate interview that mayors have the power to protect their constituents’ health, referencing the face shield issue.
Roque, however, said local chief executives must observe the right process to make sure that the policies of IATF-EID would be followed.
While several local government units already dropped the use of face shields, the DOH on Tuesday said LGUs would submit an appeal or a recommendation to the IATF on the policy by Thursday.
“The Metro Manila Development Council, headed by Chairman [Benhur]
Abalos, said they are going to submit an appeal or a requestrecommendation to the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] by Thursday,” Vergeire said in an interview on CNN.
The DOH will also present on Thursday its recommendation on using face shields.
“So, I think it just has to be organized by the MMDA [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority] and also by DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] as to the different local governments doing these executive orders in spite of the existing protocol of IATF,” she added.
Vergeire reiterated the DOH’s call for LGUs to hold, for the meantime, their orders, and issuances on making the wearing of face shields optional.
The cities of Davao, Manila, and Iloilo already decided to scrap the use of face shields outside medical facilities.
Vergeire said she was in no position to talk about penalties, when asked if there would be consequences for LGUs.
“What I can say is the IATF has been very collegial with the local governments from the start of this public health emergency,” she said.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has reiterated his support for the scrapping of the policy on the mandatory use of face shields for the general public.
Velasco believes these clear plastic guards are “all but useless” when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
“There are (sic) still no solid medical and scientific proof that face shields are effective deterrents to the spread of the deadly COVID-19,” Velasco said.
“There are, however, several published medical studies noting the doubtful efficacy of face shields in preventing aerosols from spreading, which is primarily how coronavirus infects us,” he added.
He said studies conducted by physician-researchers of Wayne State University School of Medicine indicate that combining the use of face shields and masks made little difference over the use of masks alone.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has recently signed an executive order which specified that wearing of face shields would be voluntary in the so-called 3Cs: crowded places, close contact settings, and confined and enclosed spaces.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles also said: “We are now allowing people to play contact sports and soon, people can already watch movies in cinemas without face shields.”
“We have also heard time and again that face shield use does not guarantee additional protection against COVID-19, and it is no secret that our people are already burdened by high unemployment rate and rising prices. As such, it is just right to ditch the policy in its entirety,” he added.