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Local

IDPH to educators: Masks are safer for students than face shields

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., wears a face shield before a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about the COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., wears a face shield before a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about the COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

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The Illinois State Board of Education has decided that, absent a medical or other restriction, masks, rather than face shields, should be used by students and staff.

It bases its decision on the determination by the Illinois Department of Public Health that masks are more effective than face shields in protecting against COVID-19.

"Face shields have not been deemed effective for source control and are only to be used when other methods of protection are not available or appropriate," the state board of education said Tuesday in a letter to educators.

Per IDPH guidelines, in addition to face coverings, students also must maintain a 6-foot social distance when in class or other indoor areas – "whenever and wherever possible."

In situations where students need "facial visualization for instruction and communication" – for example, when students are learning a new language and need to see the teacher's mouths form the words – the IDPH is recommending the use of video instruction, which also will promote social distancing.

If video is instruction is unavailable, "face shields may be used with the understanding that they have not been deemed effective for source control. As such, heightened attention and adherence to 6-foot social distancing is critical for individuals using face shields," the IDPH said.

It also recommends that schools get a physician’s note, documenting the medical reasons student cannot wear a mask.

IDPH made the decision to forego shields in favor of masks after discussing the issue with its communicable disease team, infection preventionists, and infectious disease specialists and after reviewing guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ISBE is updating the FAQ portion of its website to reflect the determination.

"In this rapidly evolving crisis, we are committed to ensuring that Illinois schools operate under the most current information, guided by science and data," Trisha Olson, ISBE's legal officer, said in the letter.

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