Medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are supposed to wear eye protection such as goggles or face shields, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — so could wearing eyeglasses offer some protection, too?
A recent study by five ocular scientists published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, a peer-reviewed medical journal, says no.
There’s no scientific evidence that wearing standard prescription spectacles provides protection.
There’s “no scientific evidence that wearing standard prescription spectacles provides protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions,” and there is “currently no evidence to suggest an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 through contact lens wear compared to spectacle lens wear,” the study says.
A simple glasses frame “does not seal the air around the eyes and, therefore, cannot provide adequate protection,” said lead author Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
That finding is in line with CDC’s guidance for medical professionals. The agency advises them to wear “goggles or a disposable face shield that covers the front and sides of the face.” The CDC has also noted there’s no evidence suggesting contact-lens wearers are at greater risk for becoming infected with COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers.
Non-health-care workers are discouraged from using medical personal protective equipment, especially N95 respirators, which are in short supply. (The CDC, however, recently recommended that everyone wear a cloth face covering in public when “other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”)
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The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggested in March that contact-lens wearers might want to switch to spectacles to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in part because people touch the mucous membranes in their eyes less when they wear glasses instead of contacts.
The professional association’s recommendation still holds, a spokesman told MarketWatch.
“The fact is, there’s not a lot known about COVID-19 and its behavior in the eye,” said Thomas Steinemann, a clinical spokesman for the organization. “As ophthalmologists, we look at what is known about other viruses and how they can be transmitted through tears asymptomatically.”
People tend to touch the mucous membranes in their eyes less when they wear glasses instead of contacts.
He added: “Most patients don’t follow proper contact lens hygiene” and “suggest patients consider taking a break from contact lenses for a while.”
But contacts and glasses offer comparable risks when it comes to coronavirus, the study found. One is not better than the other — unless a person is sick, in which case they should wear their glasses, Jones said. This applies to all illnesses, not just COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, he said.
“Taking this step limits the chances of developing any inflammatory response that can occur secondary to a viral infection,” he said, such as a sore or red eye.
Until the illness passes, you should continue to wear glasses, Jones said. Afterward, check with your eye-care practitioner to make sure it is safe to go back to contacts. Once you’re cleared, you should get fresh lenses and a fresh contact-lens case.
If you aren’t sick, you can wear either contact lenses or glasses. People should always wash their hands and dry them before touching any part of their face, “regardless of whether they are contact-lens wearers, glasses wearers or require no vision correction at all,” Jones said.
Similarly, the CDC advises that “contact lens wearers should continue to practice safe contact lens wear and care hygiene habits.” It’s important that people who wear glasses regularly dry and wash them, Jones added, “as the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on the plastic that makes up spectacles.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 200,000 of the 634,975 confirmed cases in the U.S. were in New York State. At least 51,770 people in the U.S. have recovered. The U.S has the most confirmed cases of any country in the world and, at 27,940, the most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering.
More than one-third of the U.S. confirmed fatalities were in New York City, and they rose by 752 over the last 24 hours. That figure does not include at least 3,778 people who died in New York City and were not tested for coronavirus, but whose death certificates suggested they likely died from an illness related to COVID-19, health authorities in the state said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday ordered all New Yorkers to cover their faces in public when they can’t maintain a proper social distance. “You’re walking down the street alone? Great!You’re now at an intersection and there are people at the intersection and you’re going to be in proximity to other people? Put the mask on. You don’t have the right to infect me.”
Worldwide, there were 2,049,888 million cases and 133,572 fatalities, and 510,486 people who had recovered.