Opinion: Eye protection for the public may prevent COVID-19 transmission

Jonathan Shenkin is a pediatric dentist in Augusta. He is a faculty member in Health Policy and Pediatric Dentistry at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine. Daniela Bacherini is a faculty member in Ophthalmology at the University of Florence, Italy.

Maine has been witnessing an acceleration in the number of new cases of COVID-19, yet we are still the state with the second lowest per capita number of infections in the U.S. This disparity between the low per capita number of COVID-19 infections in Maine and the increase in new cases creates an opportunity for change in how we reduce the risk of infection beyond a mask mandate. An unexplored public health intervention for the general public is the concept of wearing eye protection when in public spaces with high traffic, like a supermarket, or when face masks aren’t being worn, like in a restaurant.

While eye protection may seem far-fetched, it may be one of the reasons why there has not been a single reported case of COVID-19 transmission in a dental office between patients and dental staff in the world. Dentists and their clinical staff have been wearing eye protection for decades. That eye protection has traditionally been safety glasses, but now also includes face shields and goggles. In health care settings, eye protection is an important part of personal protective equipment (PPE) recommended for health care personnel who come into close and prolonged contact with patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

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