Skip to main content

Updated guidance for face coverings on Stanford campuses and facilities

Categories: Health & safety, Workplace & HR

Last modified on

Starting June 26th, many university policies on physical distancing and face coverings have changed as follows:

Physical Distancing: As per federal and state agencies, physical distancing is no longer required in most circumstances (see the below requirements specific to unvaccinated persons).

Face Coverings: All faculty, staff, students, contractors, and visitors must continue to wear face coverings in the following settings:

For fully vaccinated individuals, face coverings will otherwise be optional outdoors, but strongly recommended consistent with CDC guidance, indoors.  In workplace settings, departments are to continue providing face coverings upon employee request.

Unvaccinated persons will need to continue to wear their face coverings in shared indoor public/ workplace settings (i.e., lobbies, breakrooms, restrooms, shared office suites) and in vehicles.

For unvaccinated persons, face coverings are not required to be worn in the following situations:

  • When outdoors,
  • When alone in a room or University vehicle/cart
  • When eating/ drinking outdoors, or indoors while physically distancing from others,
  • For children 2 years old or younger,
  • When wearing a face covering would cause an unsafe condition*, or
  • If there is a medical or mental health exception*.  For 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.

*In these cases, such individuals must maintain physical distancing from others, OR are required to complete COVID-19 testing on a weekly basis.

This guidance may continue to evolve as California and/ or University requirements change.

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

Types of face coverings

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

  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and does not have gaps around the nose and chin.
  • 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.

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.
  • Are intended for the healthcare workers (i.e., N95 filtering facepiece respirators).

You can also consider commercially available disposable masks (e.g., KN95, FFP2, KF95).

Special provisions for N95 respirator use

As N95 respirators are designated as personal respiratory protection, workplace provision of N95s must adhere to SU’s Respiratory Protection Program.

During pandemic recovery

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). 

Additionally, 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.

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 support with KN95 or N95 respirator procurement, departments can reach out to EOC Logistics (

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.