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Face covering guidance

Categories: Health & safety, Workplace & HR

Last Updated: July 8, 2022

Effective September 1st, face coverings will be required for staff and visitors in residential common areas (except while eating and drinking). Additionally, during move-in, face coverings are mandatory for everyone, both in rooms and common spaces.

Stanford strongly recommends masking indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. Masking is required in classrooms, except while speaking; in healthcare facilities, including Vaden Health Center and Stanford hospitals and clinics; indoors at SLAC; and on Marguerite buses. Individuals in Stanford facilities outside Santa Clara County are expected to follow local masking mandates (e.g. SLAC).

For more information on selecting face coverings, click here.

Face Coverings: While vaccination is the most effective step we can take to minimize the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 virus, masking provides an extra level of protection and helps keep our community safe.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has transitioned the county’s indoor masking requirement to a “strong recommendation.” In addition, the California Department of Public Health has transitioned its indoor masking requirement for unvaccinated individuals to a strong recommendation, and the county is aligning with that guidance. And Cal-OSHA has lifted the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to mask indoors.

Stanford strongly recommends masking indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. Masking is required in classrooms, except while speaking; in healthcare facilities, including Vaden Health Center and Stanford hospitals and clinics; indoors at SLAC; and on Marguerite buses.

In compliance with State of California protocols, masking will still be required in these settings, regardless of vaccination status, in:

  • Healthcare facilities, including Vaden Health Center and Stanford hospitals and clinics.
  • Childcare facilities

We encourage everyone to respect the choices that individuals make about their own masking in many settings.

Quick links:
Types of Face Coverings
Special Provisions for N95 Respirator Use

Types of face coverings

N95 respirators, KN95 masks, KF94 masks, and double masking (e.g., cloth face covering over a disposable surgical mask) can provide a higher level of fit and filtration. Surgical masks and double-layer cloth face coverings remain acceptable though they do not provide the same level of personal protection.

Face coverings used at Stanford must meet the following minimum California Department of Public Health recommendations:

  • Fits snugly against the sides of your face and does not have gaps around the nose and chin.
  • Be equipped with a nose wire to minimize gaps around the nose bridge.
  • Completely cover the nose and mouth.
  • Acceptable types include cloth masks with tightly woven fabric (i.e., cotton) with minimum two layers, disposable/surgical face masks, and masks with inner filter pockets.
    • NOTE:  A face covering does not include a scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar or single layer of fabric.

Do not choose masks that have any of the following characteristics:

  • Fit loosely on your face with large gaps around the nose and chin.
  • Are made of fabric that is hard to breathe through.
  • Have exhalation valves or vents that allow viral particles to escape.
  • Gaiters and other loose fitting masks are not acceptable, even if double layered.

General information on use, care, obtaining, and reuse of face coverings is available here.

N95 respirator use

Individuals are advised to review N95 Respirator Voluntary Use Guidance for important guidance on the safe use of N95s.

During pandemic recovery

Stanford has a supply of voluntary use N95 respirators and KN95, disposable surgical and reusable two-ply face coverings. Local units will coordinate with their staff on how to make requests. Students can make requests through their Residential & Dining Enterprises student housing front desk.

Departments are to provide required use of N95 respirators to employees where identified jobs have high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 (e.g., clinical respiratory droplet/ aerosol-generating activities).

During wildfire smoke events

  • When the local AirNow Air Quality Index (AQI) consistently remains greater than 151, 
    • N95 respirators shall be made available for voluntary use for staff assigned work outdoors or in campus buildings with unfiltered air for more than 1 hour per work shift as per Cal/OSHA.
    • For non critical operations, re-assign staff to work in filtered air location or inform staff not to report for on-site work. 
  • When the local AirNow Air Quality Index (AQI) consistently remains greater than 500, N95 respirators use is required for the critical operations that must continue to resume, as required by Cal/OSHA. 

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 above.

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.

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, improve filtration, and reduce the spread of respiratory droplet particles by up to 95%:

1) Double masking by wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical face mask. Do not double mask using two cloth masks, two surgical masks, N95 or KN95 masks.

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.