Posted: June 19, 2020

Penn State University's Universal Masking Policy

OVERVIEW: This document provides general guidance on the use and care of cloth masks. Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently updated the use of masks as an additional precaution during the COVID-19 outbreak. Homemade masks made of fabric and cloth are not considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). However, these masks can be an effective complement to social distancing, handwashing, and other mitigation measures.

WHY UNIVERSAL MASKING? Cloth masks limit the wearer from spreading infectious droplets in the air by containing coughs and sneezes. When a cloth mask is not available, a scarf or bandana can be utilized. Using homemade or cloth masks will prevent those who may be infectious but only mildly symptomatic or non-symptomatic from spreading the virus to others.

UNIVERSAL MASKING REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCING: In accordance with the Secretary of Health order, all employees reporting to campus are required to wear masks, ideally cloth, while on site. Masks are required to be worn at all times while on campus independent of whether social distancing can be maintained (e.g., must be worn outdoors, in hallways, in shared work areas, etc.). Masks do not need to be worn when eating or drinking, when isolated in a private office or vehicle, or when use adversely effects an employee's safety or health. The University will make cloth masks available through Penn State General Stores (Item # 7129197) as available in the eBuy catalog. As additional supplies are being obtained, in the interim limited amounts of surgical masks (Item # 1816641 or 2036421) can be used until cloth masks are available. Employees may use homemade cloth masks if they meet the guidance outlined by the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health.

RESERVE RESPIRATORS FOR HEALTHCARE AND REQUIRED OPERATIONS: N95 respirators and surgical masks are designed to protect those working in high risk situations with a likelihood of exposure. Medical-grade masks should not be used for “universal masking" once cloth masks are available.

GENERAL NOTES ABOUT UNIVERSAL MASKING: Remember this saying: "My mask protects you, your mask protects me." If you start to become ill, the purpose of the mask is to minimize the spread of germs if you cough.
• Masks should meet the following guidelines:
• The mask should fit snugly around the mouth/nose and comfortably against the side of the face.
• Secured with ties or ear loops.
• Includes multiple layers of fabric.
• Allows for breathing without restriction.
• Able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
• Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Maintain physical and social distancing by keeping 6 feet of separation when possible. Continue to wash your hands often throughout the day for at least 20 seconds.

USE AND CARE OF CLOTH MASKS: Best practices for fabric and cloth masks are as follows:
• Wash all masks upon receiving. These are not sterilized.
• Wash the mask after every use.
• Wash in hot water with regular detergent. Dry completely on a hot setting.
• Before putting on a mask and immediately after removing, wash hands
with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Ensure the mask fits snugly around the mouth and nose.
• Do not wear the mask if it is damp or wet from spit or mucus.
• Remove the mask from behind without touching the front side

Emergency Contacts

  • Emergency (Police-Fire-Ambulance): 911
  • University Police: 814-863-1111
  • University Health Services: 814-865-6556
  • Environmental Health and Safety: 814-865-6391
  • Physical Plant Work Reception Center: 814-865-4731