Generic classroom

Photo: AP 

ILLINOIS (WAND) - State health and education officials have decided face shields should be avoided in most classroom situations. 

A Tuesday press release from the Illinois State Board of Education said it has been involved in dialogue with educators and stakeholders concerning the use of face shields instead of masks. Since then, the Illinois Department of Public Health ruled face coverings and social distancing are the goal "whenever and wherever possible." 

"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 board's statement said.

IDPH was involved in lengthy additional collaboration with the communicable disease team, infection preventionists and infectious disease specialists when making this decision. It also reviewed available guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

IDPH is recommending video instruction to promote social distancing "in cases where individuals need facial visualization for instruction and communication." If video instruction isn't available or appropriate, face shields can 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 board said. "Examples of limited situations when face shields may be necessary, if video instruction is not possible, include for teachers of English Learners or world languages, whose students may need to see their mouths form words to facilitate language acquisition." 

The release said IDPH appreciates a small minority of people who have a medical issue preventing them from using face coverings. Face shields can be used instead of masks in these situations if they can be tolerated, as long as users know their limitations and "the heightened need for strict adherence to social distancing." The board is recommending schools review information, such as a doctor's note, that documents the medical issue for a person who can't wear a mask. 

Click here for a supplementary FAQ from the board of education, which has more information about face coverings in schools. 

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