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Personal Safety Practices: Face Masks/Coverings, Gloves and Goggles/Face Shields

Posted by on Thursday, June 11, 2020 in .


Face masks/coverings (e.g., disposable masks or cloth face coverings) must be worn by all individuals on campus at all times in public indoor settings (e.g., common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, break-rooms, restrooms, etc.). Faculty may opt to wear face shields in lieu of masks/coverings while teaching and while following other classroom protocols. If physical distancing is possible, individuals working in private offices or laboratory environments that do not otherwise require face masks/coverings may remove their face masks/coverings while in such spaces.

Physical distancing must be maintained at all times when outdoors. Face masks/coverings must be worn at all times when outdoors, with the following limited exceptions:

    1. While engaged in vigorous solo outdoor recreation, such as biking or running, or under the supervision of relevant recreation staff or instructors, such as an outdoor fitness class through the Recreation and Wellness Center
    2. While actively engaged in eating/drinking outdoors, so long as physical distancing is maintained

Appropriate use of face masks/coverings is important in minimizing risks to the wearers and those around them according to both CDC and ACHA guidance. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The face mask/covering is not a substitute for physical distancing. This applies to off-site and leased building space, as well as on the main Vanderbilt campus, both indoors and outdoors.

An individual who is having difficulty wearing a face mask/covering should contact Occupational Health (faculty, staff, postdoc) or Student Health (student) for direction. A faculty member, staff member, or postdoc who cannot wear a face mask/covering because of medical or other reasons should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity office for possible accommodation measures.  Students should contact Student Access Services for possible accommodation measures.

Type and Intended Use of Face Masks/Coverings

Each faculty member, staff member, postdoc and student will be provided with one cloth face covering. Individuals and departments can contact their assigned building manager or liaison in their college, school or department to acquire cloth face coverings.

Disposable masks will be provided, if needed. A disposable mask must not be used for more than one day.

Staff face masks/coverings are work attire. Face masks/coverings must be clean, plain and free of writing, logos or images other than those of Vanderbilt University. Departments may have additional face masks/coverings guidelines. 

Based on CDC guidance and recent updated studies, face masks/coverings need to fit the following criteria:

  • Face masks/coverings must adhere to CDC guidance.
  • Cotton face masks are allowed as long as they have multiple layers.
  • Any face mask/covering with a one-way exhalation valve is prohibited. These masks allow the wearer to directly exhale into the air, and do not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.
  • Neck gaiters are not recommended.  The fabric used in neck gaiters has demonstrated through various studies as not being effective. Many neck gaiters are stretchy knit, synthetics or fleece. Those are the least tightly woven fabrics which are least likely to provide a high filtration efficiency. A mask should have a tight weave and low porosity. Other studies can be found here, here, here and here.
  • Scarves and bandanas are not recommended, as based on studies they do not provide enough layers to be effective.
TypeCloth Face CoveringDisposable MaskMedical-Grade Surgical MaskN95 Respirator
DescriptionHome-made or commercially manufactured face coverings that are washable and help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsCommercially manufactured masks help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsFDA-approved masks to protect the wearer from large droplets and splashes; helps contains wearer’s respiratory emissionsProvide effective respiratory protection from airborne particles and aerosols; helps contain wearer’s respiratory emissions
Intended useRequired for campus community use in all settings (common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, breakrooms, campus outdoor spaces, in restrooms, etc.) Not required when working alone and physical distancing is possible.These masks are reserved for healthcare workers and other approved areas with task-specific hazards determined by OESO.

Use and Care of Face Masks/Coverings

Putting on the face mask/covering

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face mask/covering.
  • Ensure the face mask/covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face mask/covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.
  • Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face mask/covering.

Taking off the face mask/covering

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the face mask/covering.
  • When taking off the face mask/covering, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Disposal of face masks

  • Keep face mask stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Disposable face masks must not be used for more than one day and should be placed in a trash receptacle.
  • Dispose of a face mask if it is visibly damaged (e.g., stretched ear loops, torn or punctured materials), dirty or visibly contaminated.

Care, storage and laundering of cloth face coverings

  • Keep face covering stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Cloth face coverings may not be used longer than one day at a time and must be washed after use.
  • Disinfecting method: Launder cloth face coverings with regular laundry detergent before first use and after each shift. (Disposable masks are not washable.)

Gloves are not necessary for general use and should not replace good hand hygiene. Washing your hands often with soap and water is considered the best practice for common everyday tasks. Please speak with your supervisor to determine if gloves are necessary.

Goggles/Face Shields

Individuals are not required to wear goggles or face shields as part of general activity on campus. Good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face are generally sufficient for non-health care environments.