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Guidance on face coverings at Stanford facilities

Category: Health & safety

Last modified on

For the most updated requirements on face covering usage on the Stanford campus, refer to the updated guidance published May 13, 2020 and updated January 26, 2021.

Face coverings are required at all Stanford locations, however they are not required to be worn in personal offices while the door is closed, and you are alone.

Contact EH&S for specific guidance via health-alerts@stanford.edu.

Face covering basics

Face coverings are primarily designed to protect others from viral transmission in cases where the wearer is infected and unaware of it. Wearing a face covering is not a replacement for practicing physical distancing and good personal hygiene practices. When performed together, they can best help prevent the spread of pathogens in the community. 

As consistent with CDC, make sure your cloth face covering:

  • fits snugly against the side of the face
  • completely covers the nose and mouth
  • is secured with ties or ear loops
  • includes multiple layers of fabric. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 3-ply face coverings for individuals without respiratory conditions. 
  • allows for breathing without restriction
  • Some can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape, although it is not recommended that surgical/disposable masks be washed as it can deteriorate the material and they will not work as intended.

Note: Face coverings/masks with an exhalation valve are not designed to contain respiratory droplets. Because of this, face coverings/ masks with exhalation valves are not allowed at Stanford.

Type and intended uses of face coverings in time of COVID-19

Cloth face covering

Commercially manufactured and homemade face coverings that are washable; help contain wearers’ respiratory emissions.

Intended use: For campus community and non-healthcare settings (e.g. research labs, shop areas, office spaces).

Disposable face covering

Care, storage and laundering:

  • Keep in manufacturer packaging until needing to use it.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions and precautions of use. 
  • Disposable face covering may be reused until it is: 
    • Visibly damaged, such as:
      • stretched ear loops,
      • torn or punctured material,
      • nose wire broken, or
    • Dirty or visibly contaminated

Medical-grade surgical mask

Medical-grade surgical mask

FDA-approved masks to protect the wearer from large droplets and splashes; help contain wearers’ respiratory emissions.

Intended use: Currently, we ask that these masks are to be reserved for use in healthcare settings (per CDC), unless required for task-specific hazards determined by EH&S risk assessment.

N95 respirator

N95 respirators

Provide effective respiratory protection from airborne dusts and aerosols; help contain wearers’ respiratory emissions.

Intended use: Currently, these masks are to be reserved for use in healthcare settings (per CDC), unless required for task-specific hazards determined by EH&S risk assessment.

Use and care of face coverings

Appropriate use of face coverings is important in minimizing risks to the wearer, as well as to prevent contamination of them.  Personnel using a cloth and disposable face coverings should understand the following work practices:

Click grid for downloadable PDF

Cloth face coverings

Putting on the face covering:

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face covering.
  • Ensure the face-covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face-covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.

Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face covering.

Taking off the face covering:

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing the face covering.
  • When taking off the face coverings, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Care, storage and laundering:

  • Keep face coverings stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Launder with regular clothing detergent before first use, and after each shift.
  • Dispose of face-covering if:
    • Visibly damaged (i.e., stretched ear loops, torn or punctured material); or
    • Dirty or visibly contaminated

Disinfecting method:

Regular laundering of face covering

Disposal:

regular trash

Disposable face coverings

Putting on the face covering: 

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face covering.
  • Ensure the face-covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face-covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.

Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face covering.

Taking off the face covering:

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing the face covering.
  • When taking off the face coverings, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Care, storage and laundering:

  • Keep in manufacturer packaging until needing to use it. Face covering may be reused per these instructions.
  • Dispose of face-covering if:
    • Visibly damaged (i.e., stretched ear loops, torn or punctured material, nose wire); or
    • Dirty or visibly contaminated

Disinfecting method:

No decontamination of disposable face coverings permitted.

Disposal:

Regular trash

Obtaining face coverings

For work activities:

We encourage you to provide your own face covering wherever possible, and many members of our community have already purchased or made them for their use outside of Stanford. As mentioned above, many options are available. When necessary for workplace operations, the University will provide respiratory protection for front-line workers who are not able to maintain physical distancing during assigned duties. Department managers can request disposable face coverings via health-alerts@stanford.edu and Environmental Health & Safety will work with each department on their specific needs.

For a limited time, there will be face coverings available for students who have not yet been able to obtain their own. Students may check at their residential dining halls or front desks, and can also seek further help from their Residence Dean or GLO Dean.

As desired, employees/researchers are allowed to wear personally owned cloth face coverings that provide a more preferred fit and comfort, as long as they meet these CDC criteria:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include two (2) or more layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Can be laundered without damage or changes in material integrity

For personal use: 

Individuals should continue to adhere to county advisories on face coverings, whether on campus or off.  As desired, individuals may purchase their own face coverings that meet the above CDC recommendations or may make their own personal face coverings following the CDC guidance.

Reuse of face coverings

Common cloth face-covering fabrics can be laundered.  Disposable face coverings are single-use but can be reused when individuals manage them according to the acceptable methods listed in “Care, Storage, and Laundering” guidance above.

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