Maintaining a safe physical distance will be essential to virtually all social and economic activities carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are many instances or events during which it is not possible to remain more than 2 m away from others or to remember to do so. The use of transparent physical barriers has been broadly recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the US CDC, the World Health Organization, and many other agencies. These barriers are often made out of acrylic (Plexiglass) or polycarbonate plastics, which are lighter weight, more easily shaped, and have much more significant impact resistance than glass. The purpose of this document was to consult with public health and industry to identify best practices in the design, installation, and maintenance of transparent partitions to ensure that they are most protective of public health.
Why use transparent partitions?
Although partitions have been widely in use in healthcare and foodservice settings for decades, their use in the “new normal” world of business is distinct from either of these. Partitions are proposed to serve three critical functions: 1) intercepting the respiratory droplets that are thought to transmit the virus, 2) re-enforcing physical distancing requirements, even when users are unwilling or forgetful; and 3) reducing reliance on masks, both due to the shortage of these items and user comfort. However, if staff and/or clients will be unmasked on opposing sides of these partitions, it is essential that the barrier has been designed, installed, and maintained such that it effectively prevents the co-mingling of droplets (and aerosols) produced by both parties.