Frequently asked questions
Wearing a face covering is required indoors, when other people are present and in all public and common areas, regardless of your vaccination status. There are some occasions when a face covering may be removed, including:
- In personal office/workspaces and private residential units:
- Working or spending time alone in a personal office or workspace with the door closed
- Operating a vehicle with no passengers
- Inside an assigned on-campus residential unit
- When actively eating or drinking in appropriate places
- While actively engaged in a performing arts performance
University personnel verified to be fully vaccinated in accordance with the University’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy may temporarily remove their face coverings when formally presenting to or instructing a group or class in a large space from behind a podium or in a stage-like setting. Physical distance of at least six feet from others is required at all times while the face covering is removed. As a rule of thumb, spaces with a fire code occupancy limit of 200 or more are considered large spaces.
- While actively playing or training for, coaching, or officiating indoor sports in a collegiate, K-12, or recreational setting; this exemption does not apply to indoor fitness facilities
- While swimming or engaged in water sports or recreation.
- While showering, bathing, or engaging in other personal hygiene or grooming activities that require the removal of a face covering
- When any party to a communication is deaf or hard of hearing and not wearing a face covering is essential to communication
- When necessary to confirm the person’s identity
- When unable to put on a face covering due to an emergency
Job-specific personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements: Face coverings do not replace required job-specific PPE, such as medical/procedure masks, face shields or respirators. Refer to the Workplace COVID-19 Risk Level and Selection of Personal Protective Equipment guidance for job-specific PPE requirements.
Children younger than five years old: Children who are younger than two years old should never wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation. Children who are two, three, or four years old, with the assistance and close supervision of an adult, are strongly recommended to wear a face covering at all times in public settings and when around non-household members.
UW Medicine medical facility employees and visitors to UW Medicine medical facilities are required to wear a face covering and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with UW Medicine policy.
A face covering must:
- Fit snugly against the sides of the face;
- Completely cover the nose and mouth;
- Be secured with ties, ear loops, elastic bands, or another equally effective method;
- Include at least two layers of material; allow for breathing without restriction;
- Be capable of being laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape (if made with cloth); and
- Be free of holes, tears or valves that have the potential to release respiratory droplets.
A face covering can also be a mask that provides a higher level of protection than a cloth face covering, such as a medical procedure/surgical mask, a KN95 mask, or an N95 mask. Discuss with your supervisor your options for using personal protective equipment based on your risk of transmission of COVID-19. Review the differences between a face covering, surgical/procedure mask and respirator.
Personnel and students with an approved exemption from the vaccination requirement must wear a medical/procedure mask (see link for performance standards) or higher level of protection where face coverings are required at the University in accordance with the Face Covering Policy. Cloth masks are not permitted.
The following types of face coverings do not adequately contain the respiratory droplets of the wearer:
- Bandanas without ear loops that don't fit snugly to the face
- Face coverings made of mesh fabric, including neck gators
- Face coverings with holes, tears or openings that could release respiratory droplets
- Respirators with exhalation valves or vented dust masks
- Face shields (when not combined with a face covering)
Face coverings will be provided to students and UW personnel working on site at a University location.
Cloth face coverings do not replace required job-specific personal protective equipment (PPE), such as medical/procedure masks, face shields or respirators. Cloth face coverings are not appropriate when working in close contact with others, when a risk assessment indicates PPE is required to perform a job role or activity, and/or when working with or around hazardous materials (e.g., hazardous chemicals, biohazards).
Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Use Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 webpage for more information.
UW Medicine medical center employees should follow the UW Medicine Mask Policy.
Yes. A face covering is required to be worn when an individual is working in a cubicle.
Cubicle workstations, even with dividers between them, are not considered equivalent to private offices as other people may be in the same workspace and air in the work environment can migrate throughout the space.
Read the University's COVID-19 Face Covering Policy for more information.
In the Workplace: Personnel are required comply with this policy as a condition of employment, as well as for the health and safety of themselves, their colleagues, and the UW community. Units are required to ensure all of their personnel have a thorough understanding of the requirements outlined in this policy. If, after education and training, personnel refuse to comply, contact your college/school/campus’s dean/chancellor office or your unit’s human resources/academic human resources (HR/AHR) representative to initiate the appropriate corrective action or standard of conduct process. If your dean/chancellor’s office or unit’s human resources representatives require assistance, they should contact their central HR consultant or Academic Human Resources business partner. If personnel state they are unable to wear a mask due to a health condition, refer the individual to the formal accommodation request process. University personnel with concerns that other personnel are not complying should speak with their supervisor or report it to EH&S.
Students: Students are required to follow the University’s COVID-19 Face Covering Policy at all times when on-site at the University, including any posted requirements in specific buildings or spaces.
If a student refuses to comply with the policy, the student can be asked to leave University premises. If they live in an on-campus residence hall, they can return to their residence hall unit. Student Conduct offices are available for consultations on potential violations of student conduct if needed. University personnel with concerns that a student or group of students are not complying with this policy should speak with their supervisor, consult with the campus student conduct office, or report it to EH&S. Students concerned about other students should contact their campus student conduct office.
Members of the public, customers and visitors on campus: Members of the public, customers and visitors to the University are required to wear face coverings when entering a University facility and receiving service in accordance with this policy. If a member of the public, customer or visitor is not wearing a face covering, the following steps are to be taken:
- Begin with a polite verbal request for compliance to educate and persuade the individual to wear a face covering. University personnel should ask the individual to wear a mask or face covering, and have a supply of disposable facemasks to offer individuals who do not have one.
- If, following a polite verbal request, the individual continues to decline to wear a face covering or facemask, personnel should notify the site manager to assist the customer with determining if accommodations, such as curbside pickup, can be made.
- If the individual refuses to wear a face covering and does not indicate a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering, they should be politely informed that they are not permitted to enter and be asked to leave. Personnel should not attempt to physically block an individual or physically remove them from the space and should avoid confrontation but should not provide service. Law enforcement (e.g., University of Washington Police Department or local law enforcement agency) may be called for help as a last resort.
Unless personnel have specific, job-required PPE, units must distribute two cloth face coverings to personnel who are required to come to campus for work-related use. Personnel are responsible for laundering their University-issued reusable cloth face coverings and remembering to bring them to work. Personnel may also use a personally purchased alternative face covering as appropriate.
Units can order face coverings from the Creative Communications Safe and Clean storefront. Information about accessing the storefront is available from UW Procurement.
Yes. Members of the public, customers, visitors, vendors and contractors at a University location are required to follow the University's COVID-19 Face Covering Policy at all times when on campus, including posted requirements in specific buildings or spaces.
Yes. A shared UW vehicle used for University research or business is considered an indoor space (even when windows are rolled down) and face coverings are required to be worn by UW community members when others are present in the vehicle, regardless of your vaccination status in accordance with the University of Washington COVID-19 Face Covering Policy in these indoor spaces.
As part of their COVID-19 Prevention Plan, units and research groups should utilize the Workplace COVID-19 Risk Level and Selection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) matrix to determine various circumstances under which PPE may be required for personnel sharing vehicles in addition to cloth face coverings. Units may contact EH&S for additional guidance in making this determination, as needed.
Best practices for shared vehicles include:
· Good hand hygiene and disinfection of high-touch surfaces in the vehicle; and
· Increasing vehicle ventilation though setting ventilation to increase outside air circulation or opening windows slightly to increase fresh-air flow through the vehicle interior.
If you see someone without a face covering in accordance with the UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy, you can report it to their supervisor (for University personnel), a representative of their academic unit (for students), or the Environmental Health & Safety Department.
Refer to the UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy for additional details.
No. A face covering alone will not cause a person to overheat. Studies have shown that filtering facepiece respirators, such as an N95, do not cause additional physiological stress to most wearers and do not contribute to heat stress.
Read more answers to frequently asked questions about heat stress and facemasks.
Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with:
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Young children or students learning to read
- Students learning a new language
- People with disabilities
- People who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds (for example, when singing)
If you use this type of mask, make sure:
- You can breathe easily.
- Excess moisture does not collect on the inside of the mask.
- You remove the mask before sleeping, since the plastic part could form a seal around your mouth and nose and make it hard to breathe.
UW units can order face coverings with clear panels from the UW Creative Communications Safe and Clean storefront. Information about accessing the storefront is available from UW Procurement.
While maintaining a 6-foot physical distance from other people is no longer required it is recommended, regardless of your vaccination status and especially for non fully vaccinated individuals, when actively eating and drinking, and in crowded settings or in areas that are not well ventilated.
Physical distancing will continue to be required healthcare, childcare, and K-12 settings including youth programs, regardless of vaccination status.
Masks are an important layer of protection for preventing the spread of COVID-19; however, wearing a mask for long periods of time can cause skin problems including acne (also known as “maskne”), rashes and itchiness.
- Cleanse your face before and after wearing a mask.
- If you have dry skin, apply moisturizer to your skin before putting on a mask.
- Apply a ceramide-containing facial lotion or petroleum jelly as a barrier to help prevent skin irritation in areas where the mask rubs against your skin.
- Avoid wearing a liquid foundation or any makeup that can clog your pores, which may cause your skin to break out. Foundation, aftershave, sunscreen and similar products can also rub off on your mask, leading to decreased air filtration, making it harder to breathe.
- Wash cloth masks daily. Replace disposable masks after each use, and when they become contaminated or wet.
- Consider wearing a different type of mask if you are uncomfortable with your current mask.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or polyester, on the inside layer that rests against your face, as these fabrics are more likely to irritate your skin.
- Cloth masks should have an inner layer made from an absorbent material (e.g., cotton) to help absorb sweat that can lead to breakouts.
- If you are considering using a facemask bracket to prevent acne, be aware that it could lead to gaps between the mask and your face that may cause your mask to be less effective. If you decide to use a bracket under your mask, ensure the mask fits snugly against your face.
Read the American Academy of Dermatology Association article “9 Ways to Prevent Face Mask Skin Problems” for more information.
If you continue to have skin problems that go unresolved after following these recommendations, speak with your health care provider and/or a dermatologist.