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As the city of New York set off fireworks to celebrate the milestone that is the vaccination of 70 percent of its population with at least one dose of the Covid-19 jab, people in the Philippines are also celebrating the flash of common sense as our dear great leader suddenly announced out of the blue that face shields are no longer necessary unless in hospitals.

Fireworks were set off in New York City to the delight of onlookers as part of the celebrations of the lifting of almost all Covid-19 related restrictions on businesses, gatherings and masks. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state had passed the crucial benchmark in its recovery from the pandemic. New York State residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Center for Disease Control showed the state reached the milestone Monday afternoon and the state lifted most pandemic restrictions Tuesday, their biggest step forward yet returning to normal life.

Living in a country where less than 5 percent of the population has been vaccinated more than three months after our nationwide vaccination program was belatedly launched, reading news of the NYC achievement and celebrations brought out feelings of jealousy. When will we be able to shoot fireworks into the sky to celebrate any kind of non-political victory in this country?

Oh wait, fireworks are illegal here so probably never. LOL.

If you look at the bright side though, the Philippines also achieved a remarkable milestone this week. Fifteen months into this tiring medley of quarantine rules and restrictions, our leader-god-king suddenly declared out of the blue that the wearing of the ubiquitous face shield is now mandatory only in hospitals.

Those words were first teased to the public by two senators and confirmed to come out of his mouth by his spokesperson so it is now akin to a royal decree and therefore effective immediately and all over.

Praise heavens! At least Filipinos also have a Covid-related victory to celebrate, even if this one is based on the whim of a man-god who cares more about being popular than the science (or lack thereof) behind it.

The wearing of face shields only in hospitals is now considered a policy since it was President Duterte who made the decision. But the government’s rule-happy pandemic task force can still appeal his decision, Malacañang said yesterday.

This is great news because face shields are inconvenient and ineffective. No other country in the planet has required the use of face shields. Properly worn face masks should be enough but in this country, we’ve been carrying face shields around everywhere for these past 15 months, all because the IATF says so…because we all need that extra layer of protection that provides another one percent degree of protection.

The face shield is the quintessential example of the law of diminishing returns. Wearing a mask properly gives 95 percent protection from Covid-19. Adding a face shield over it adds one percent protection but makes life terribly inconvenient. The face shield is a diminishing return that we have endured for 15 months so this new decree is one of the best things our dear leader has done for us all throughout this godforsaken pandemic. It took more than a year but common sense finally prevailed.

Maybe, it wasn’t common sense. It could be an attempt to regain popularity for a leader whose popularity seems to be becoming more virtual than real over the course of this poorly managed pandemic. Perhaps, the highly profitable face shield lobby finally lost their clout. Whatever the reason, let’s enjoy this small victory and freedom.

However, don’t throw away those darned face shields just yet. Aside from being hard for the environment, we have to consider our dear leader’s track record. Another of his trademark flip-flops could occur and this rare progressive policy could be reversed without warning anytime. It can be construed with creative imagination as another bad joke and taken back. The IATF and the face shield lobby could convince him that their way is the better way, which isn’t a mean feat in an administration where scientific evidence isn’t as powerful as clout.

Face shield lovers and advocates shouldn’t worry and not complain too much because they can still wear it whenever and wherever they like. The newest decree does not make it illegal to wear face shields. It just makes them optional when not in hospitals. If you are the type who believes in the efficacy and necessity of the additional one percent protection of the face shield, nobody will complain if you continue to use it everywhere you go.

As for me, I’m ditching the face shield, printing out a copy of this royal verbal decree to serve as a gatepass to establishments that still insist on face shields as a requirement for entry, and enjoying the freedom and convenience of a face-shield-free lifestyle for the next few days/weeks/months or for as long as this new policy holds.

I’ll still be wearing my mask properly, of course, but I’m thankful that the additional one percent layer of protection can stay home.*

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June 2022

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