Face Covering FAQs for Start of the Fall 2021 Semester

Why is the UMass Amherst campus requiring indoor face coverings in fall 2021?

The campus indoor mask requirement is in concert with new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued in response to the Delta variant. Most Massachusetts counties and many others across the country are now designated as substantial or high risk for COVID-19. With students scheduled to arrive in Amherst from these locations, the campus has adopted an indoor mask requirement to mitigate the risk of transmission at the start of the fall semester. The most recent scientific evidence finds that fully vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can potentially spread the virus to others. Indoor mask wearing is particularly important to mitigate the spread from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers who are not aware they are infectious, and when other public health measures such as social distancing are not possible. The mask requirement starts August 11 and will be reviewed in mid-September.

When and where are face coverings required on campus?

Effective August 11, all members of the UMass community ­­— students, faculty and staff —as well as contractors and visitors are required to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces on the UMass Amherst campus. The requirements applies to vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. Face coverings must be worn in nearly all indoor public spaces, including classrooms, hallways, elevators, restrooms, break rooms, entries and exits to buildings, laboratories, meeting rooms, shared offices and work areas.

Are face masks required in dining commons and other campus eateries?

Yes, face coverings should be worn in nearly all indoor settings, including in line at dining areas. Face masks may be removed only while eating in dining areas.

Are face coverings required in residence halls?

Yes, face coverings are required in all common areas in residence halls. This includes hallways, lobbies, common rooms and elevators. Residents and their guests are not required to wear face coverings in assigned residence hall rooms.

Are face coverings required in the Campus Recreation Center?

Yes, to ensure that Campus Recreation is able to provide full access to its facilities, face coverings are required in the building. You must remain masked when working out.

What do I do if someone isn’t wearing a mask?

Wearing a mask is important to the health and safety of our community, and each of us has a responsibility to do our part. If you notice someone without a face covering indoors, you can distance yourself or ask that they wear a mask. If you are a staff member, you may refer the situation to your supervisor.

Where are face coverings not required?

Face coverings are not required:

  • in personal offices when alone
  • in research spaces when alone
  • when eating in the dining halls or other campus eateries
  • in residence hall rooms
  • outdoors
  • for children under the age of 2
  • for anyone with a medical condition that prevents the use of a face covering

How long will face coverings be required on campus?

The campus will re-evaluate the face covering requirement in mid-September.

What if I want to wear a mask, even in circumstances when I’m not required to?

Anyone may wear a face covering on campus whenever and wherever they want.

Are masks required outdoors?

Masks are not required outdoors. However, anyone may wear a mask on campus whenever and wherever they want.

What kinds of masks or face coverings are best?

Multi-layer cloth masks are recommended. Do not use loose fitting knit materials or single-layer items such as bandanas or neck gaiters. Studies have shown they do not provide as much protection as a mask.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

No, face coverings must cover both the mouth and nose. Exceptions are allowed for individuals alone in a private office or room or actively eating.

If I work alone in an office on campus do I need to wear a face covering?

While working alone, employees are not required to wear a face covering. Individuals should carry a face covering with them at all times, and when they come in close contact with others they should put on the face covering.

Who is not required to wear a face covering?

Face coverings are not required for:

  • Children under age 2
  • Anyone with a medical condition that prevents the use of a face covering, examples include trouble breathing, or someone unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

How do I get a medical-based accommodation regarding masks?

Individuals who have a health condition that prevents wearing a face covering must get an accommodation approval:

  • Employees who are unable to wear a face covering because of a medical condition need to request an accommodation through the Accessible Workplace Office.
  • Students who are unable to wear a face covering need to request an accommodation through the Disability Services Office.

Are there precautions I should take with my face covering?

Using face coverings incorrectly can spread germs. It is important to properly wear, store and dispose of face coverings by doing the following:

  • When putting on and taking off a face covering, you might touch your face. As such, please wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or, if not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer every time you put on and take off your face covering. If you are unable to clean your hands, be very careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when putting on and taking off your face covering.
  • Do not put a used face covering in places where others can touch them or where germs trapped in your face covering can touch other surfaces, such as counter tops or your kitchen table.
  • Do not throw your face covering loose in a bag or backpack. Keep a plastic bag with you to store your face covering if you will be taking it off when outside your home.
  • Used paper masks should be thrown out at the end of the day. Properly dispose them in the trash. Do not throw single-use face coverings or disposable gloves on the ground.

How often do I need to wash my face covering?

If you are using a cloth face covering, we recommend washing once a day by hand or machine, using detergent. The face covering should be fully dry before using. People should have at least two face coverings so they can rotate for washing.

How long can I use a paper face covering?

If you use a paper face covering, we recommend that you use a new one every day. Throw used face coverings into the trash when you are done.

What are some general face covering maintenance tips I should follow?

Your face covering must:

  • Cover nose and mouth
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties, elastic or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction

Why do my glasses fog up, and what are some tips to prevent this?

Glasses fog up when you're wearing a face covering because the face covering redirects your warm breath upward instead of forward, which forms condensation on the lenses. A tighter seal on the top of the mask, such as from a nose clip, can reduce this phenomenon.

  • Immediately before wearing a face covering, wash the glasses with soapy water and shake off the excess. Then, let the glasses air dry or gently dry off the lenses with a soft tissue before putting them back on
  • Pull your mask up and rest your glasses on top of the mask.
  • Consider adding a folded tissues to the inside top of your face covering, which can also help to absorb moisture, and reduce fogging.
  • Consider taping your face covering across the bridge of your nose and across your cheeks.
  • If these methods are not working, consider purchasing anti-fog spray or wipes.