Can you wear a visor instead of the mandatory mask?

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MANDATORY MASK – From now on, you will not only be escorted outside the store. Wearing a mask has become compulsory in enclosed public spaces on Monday, July 20 throughout France, under penalty of a fine of 135 euros in the event of an offense. This measure, the aim of which is to stem the signs of a slight upturn in Covid-19, enshrines in the law a habit already well integrated by a majority of French people.

In transport, where it was already compulsory, in shops or in administrations, the mask has now been part of the landscape since March. But another protection against the coronavirus has also been adopted by some: the protective visor. Attached to the top of the forehead, covering the entire face, it sometimes represents a more comfortable alternative to the mask, which can hinder breathing in the event of physical exertion for example.

However, it is not considered by the government as optimal protection against the spread of the coronavirus. Contacted by The HuffPost, the Directorate General of Health (DGS) believes that “the visor does not replace the mask” and specifies that “the decree making it compulsory to wear a mask only covers masks” and not visors. Anyone using a visor as an alternative to a surgical or general public mask is therefore liable to a fine of 135 euros.

Same story on the side of the SNCF. The railway company tells HuffPost that only masks are accepted on trains and that visors cannot be considered as alternatives to this requirement. Passengers wearing a visor without a mask are therefore liable to a fine.

Some workers may therefore have to revise their (new) habits. Traders or catering staff, sometimes subject to high speeds, have so far been able to adopt the visor for more comfort. They must henceforth wear a mask, as required by the decree which obliges the wearing of this protection in all “sales outlets and shopping centers” and in “restaurants and drinking establishments”, as well for “staff of establishments” only for “people aged eleven or over when traveling within the establishment”.

The decree does not apply, however, in companies not open to the public, which “must manage on a case-by-case basis” the issue of wearing a mask, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. In the absence of a rule in this private setting, no fine for wearing a visor and not a mask can therefore be applied.

France is not the first to distinguish the visor from the protective mask. In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) on July 15 advised against wearing a single visor after a series of infections of staff wearing this protection in a hotel in Grisons, reports La Tribune de Geneve. In Quebec, people wearing only a visor are now “denied access to public transport and shops” because this protection offers “no waterproofing”, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, cited by Radio- Canada.

In France, the DGS had urgently contacted the High Council for Public Health (HCSP) on May 7 on this subject. In its opinion, drawn up “on the basis of available scientific and technical data”, the HCSP recommends “not to use visors to replace masks for the general public” and to “consider their use only in addition to wearing a mask”.

Same conclusion in the case of health professionals exposed to the public, who should only wear a visor in addition to the mask. If the HCSP recognizes that the visors can “protect the area of ​​the face and the associated mucous membranes”, in particular the nose, they do not present “in any case a filtration performance” and “cannot replace a respiratory protection device”, underlines this opinion, the last published on this subject by the HCSP.

The HCSP notably cites a study carried out in 2014 using a cough simulator and concluding that visors reduce the viral exposure of the wearer by 96% when he is 45 centimeters away from someone who is coughing, as you can. see in the video below. But the visor is “less effective against the smallest droplets that can diffuse through the open sides,” notes the HCSP. The people surrounding the wearer of the visor are not protected either “from particles remaining in suspension”, underlines the national research and safety institute (INRS), while the mask filters the virus.

This remark is all the more important as “uncertainties” remain on the transmission of the coronavirus in the air. The question “was the subject of a letter to WHO on July 6 signed by 239 scientists from 32 countries, who notably shared their observations on the frequency of contamination and clusters in closed environments, particularly in case of air circulation, and even in the absence of direct projection ”, indicates the DGS.

Several infection specialists interviewed by the New York Times at the end of June, however, defend the use of the visor and highlight its many qualities: it is infinitely reusable if it is properly cleaned, it protects the entire face and prevents the wearer touches their face, it allows facial expressions to be preserved, an essential quality for deaf and hard of hearing people, and it is almost impossible to wear it badly (unlike masks sometimes put under the nose or badly handled after use).

“Remember, effectiveness doesn’t just depend on the inherent properties of the protection, but also how they are worn,” says Dr. Eli Perencevich, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa. He hopes that further research can demonstrate the effectiveness of the visor.

See also on The HuffPost: To wear the mask well, 5 essential steps to know

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