Within weeks — if not days — of the coronavirus spreading globally, the plastics industry shifted into high gear to devote portions of its production to make face shields.
Shields are made with clear film completely covering the face and a headband that can be produced using injection molding, foam or 3D printers. Everyone from small injection mold toolmakers to global automakers found they could contribute to helping protect front-line workers by making shields.
Now studies suggest shields may be adopted beyond hospitals and medical offices. One opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested shields may be better than cloth masks for protecting people from the virus.
"Cloth masks have been shown to be less effective than medical masks for prevention of communicable respiratory illnesses, although in vitro testing suggests that cloth masks provide some filtration of virus-sized aerosol particles. Face shields may provide a better option," Eli Perencevich, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and two of his colleagues, wrote.
That's an idea gaining traction elsewhere. Last week, AARP wrote about the value of a shield compared to a mask and included DIY instructions on making one out of a soda bottle.
In San Diego, the girl's school Academy of Our Lady of Peace has said it will have its 750 students return to classes with shields, rather than masks, later this year.
So companies that geared up shield protection originally focused on medical workers, like Wisconsin's Plastic Parts Inc., may be catering to a new consumer group soon.