If wearing a face mask seemed strange to most people not so long ago, wearing a plastic face shield had to be downright weird.
But as summertime arrives in Canada, interest in the plastic face coverings is heating up with the weather. Already in regular use by medical staff and some members of the public, face shields appear to be gaining appeal, boosting sales for manufacturers.
Fans say the devices are not only cooler to wear than cloth masks, but they allow for better breathing, make it easier to be understood when speaking. And most importantly, they offer better protection from the virus.
"Face shields protect your eyes, your nose and your mouth," said Dr. Michael Edmond, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, who recently published an article promoting shields in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Masks are really being recommended to control the virus at source, not to protect you," he said.
Then there's The Canadian Shield, a Waterloo, Ont., startup making millions of face shields for health-care providers and essential workers. It has just launched sales to the general public.
"Demand is quite high," said founder Jeremy Hedges, who says orders for 1,000 shields poured in as soon as the product was offered to consumers.
"I think especially when it's hot outside, wearing a face shield is a really great way for people to socialize."
But what about the vanity factor? Unlike masks, which are available in colourful, playful and even dressy styles, most face shields on the market look more like what riot police wear — an image seen in many disturbing news reports lately.
Made in Canada
Hedges of the Canadian Shield says Canada's shortage of PPE at the onset of the pandemic has had a positive result in that there are now plenty of domestic suppliers.
"We've learned the hard way that the global supply chain is not going to make Canada a priority," he said.
Hedges expects that many Canadian manufacturers will move production back home in wake of the pandemic.
"We have an opportunity to re-envision how our economy works, and everything essential is going to be made here," he said.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur — who had already founded an educational technology company called InkSmith — landed a federal government contract in April to make 10 million masks for health-care and other essential workers. Once he was confident that the Canadian Shield could deliver on that commitment, he opened sales to retail consumers.