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Updated guidance on face coverings in Stanford facilities in Palo Alto and in other parts of main campus

Categories: Health & safety, Workplace & HR

Last modified on

Effective noon on May 13, 2020, Stanford facilities located in the City of Palo Alto are subject to new face coverings requirements for essential businesses.

***Regardless of vaccination status, you must continue to wear face coverings.***

Highlights of the order include required use of face coverings when:

  • Working in or walking through common areas such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities;
  • Occupying any room or enclosed area when other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present including coworkers; and
  • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others.

NOTE: For clarity, a face covering is not required when a person is in a personal office (a single room) when others outside of that person’s household are not present as long as the public and coworkers do not regularly visit the room. Face coverings are required when out in public and recommended, but not required, while conducting outdoor recreational activities, including walking, hiking, biking, or running.

See full detailed requirements listed in the City of Palo Alto Order ID # 11334.

Stanford facilities in San Mateo County, including Stanford Redwood City, are following the same guidance as is required for the main campus.

In addition Stanford has further updated the requirements for face coverings on the main campus in Santa Clara County:

When are face coverings required on main campus in Santa Clara County?

Based on local regulations, face coverings must be worn in all Stanford buildings except residences, where different rules apply:

Note: A face covering is not required when a person is in a personal office (a single room) as long as the public does not regularly visit the room and the door is closed.

Instances of where it is not appropriate to wear a face covering include:

  • People who cannot wear a face covering for health reasons, including:
    • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering; students in this situation should follow up with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) to receive an accommodation, and employees should contact their HR manager; or
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
  • Any worker to the extent wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard at work under established health and safety guidelines;
  • While eating or drinking; or
  • Children 2 years old or younger

For clarity, although wearing a face covering is one tool for reducing the spread of the virus, doing so is not a substitute for physical distancing of at least 6 feet and frequent hand washing.

Are face coverings required outside on the main campus in Santa Clara County?

Face coverings are required outside when unable to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing. Registered student household members have the privilege of gathering together outdoors without face coverings; however, face coverings must be worn when in proximity to others not in the household.

NOTE: Face coverings are not required when exercising outdoors (e.g., walking, hiking, biking, running), provided persons are not passing within 6 feet of others. Regardless, people are recommended to have a face covering with them and readily accessible when exercising, even if they’re not wearing it at that moment.

For information regarding obtaining face coverings for all Stanford sites, see the following information:

Can I wear my own face covering?

 Yes, you are allowed to wear a personally owned cloth face covering. Minimum requirements for face coverings are addressed below.

Is Stanford providing face coverings?

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. The university has a limited supply of face coverings available. Department managers can request reusable and disposable face coverings via 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.

How do I choose the best face covering for me?

Face coverings used at Stanford must meet the following minimum CDC/ WHO criteria:

  • fits snugly against the sides of your face and does not have gaps
  • completely covers the nose and mouth
  • includes multiple layers of fabric (2 or more).

Do not choose masks that:

  • Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe (e.g., vinyl)
  • Have exhalation valves or vents that allow virus particles to escape
  • Are intended for the healthcare workers, including N95 respirators or surgical masks

What extra elements should I consider when choosing a face covering?

The most important consideration when selecting your face covering is the fit to face. While medical-grade masks and N95 respirators are conserved for the healthcare setting, consider the following elements when selecting a face covering:

  • Masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face)
  • Masks with a nose wire or fit closely over the nose to limit fogging for individuals that wear glasses
  • Masks with two or more layers of breathable fabric (e.g., cotton) or tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source)
  • Masks with inner filter pockets

Alternatively, you can consider commercially available disposable masks (e.g., FFP2, KN95, KF94).

Are face coverings with exhalation valves or vents allowed on campus?

While the exhalation valve reduces air resistance when exhaling, they are not designed to contain respiratory droplets. Because of this, face coverings/masks with exhalation valves are not recommended for preventing the community spread of COVID-19 and are not appropriate face coverings on campus.

Should I double mask or knot the ear loops on my face covering?

Cloth and medical style disposable masks both work well in preventing airborne respiratory droplet spread, but having a close fit is important in making sure they work properly. The fit of the masks you currently wear can be improved by making sure that they are well-fitted to the curves of the face, preventing leakage of air around the mask’s edges especially around the nose and chin. 

CDC researchers have found two ways to improve the fit of these masks and reduce the spread of respiratory droplet particles by up to 95%:

1) Double masking by wearing a cloth mask over a disposable face mask

Note:  Individuals should avoid double masking combinations that result in uncomfortable breathing resistance, obstruct peripheral vision, or might otherwise impact long-term wearability.

2) Knotting or looping the ends of the ear loops of a disposable face mask where they attach to the mask’s edges and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face (knotted and tucked masks, view instructional video here). 

Note:  This option is more suited for those with smaller faces.

Graphic showing the proper way to wear a face covering

For support in procurement of disposable face masks, departments can contact EOC Logistics ( Guidance on reuse of face coverings is available here.