January 19, 2021: Universal Masking Protocol Update (Effective January 22, 2021)
UConn Health has had a Universal Mask Protocol in place since April 3, 2020. This protocol requires everyone in UConn Health facilities to wear masks at all times while in any public space or any area where they may be within 6 feet of someone else, absent a medical contraindication. On September 30, 2020 the Universal Mask Protocol was updated based on emerging safety evidence to exclude gaiters, bandanas and masks containing exhalation valves* from face-coverings. At that time, cloth masks continued to be permitted in limited circumstances for non-clinical settings.
As community transmissions of COVID-19 continue to rise, causing increasing contacts among our workforce, we are again updating the Universal Mask Protocol. Effective January 22, 2021, all persons will be required to wear procedure masks issued by UConn Health while on the UConn Health campus. This includes clinical, academic, research, institutional support, administrative, facilities, dining, and other units in all UConn Health locations. UConn Health will make procedure masks available at entry points to employees. Cloth masks may only be worn if they are covered by a surgical or procedure mask. We believe this change in our policy is necessary in order to provide universally protective masking for all of our staff, regardless of their work setting.
As a reminder, masks must be worn correctly while on campus, completely covering the nose and mouth.
In situations in which masks are removed (i.e., eating), individuals must maintain greater than 6 feet of distance from others in order to reduce the potential for infection transmission.
We appreciate everyone taking this next step to keep our community and workplaces safe.
*Note: N-95s with exhalation valves are approved in certain clinical settings as long as they are issued by UConn and the employee wears an approved procedure mask over the N-95. For questions on this matter, please consult UConn Environmental Safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is required to wear procedure masks in UConn Health facilities? Does this new policy apply to patients and visitors?
All employees, contractors, patients, learners, visitors and others are required to wear procedure masks issued by UConn Health while in UConn Health facilities. If your department requires you to wear specific or additional personal protective equipment as part of your work providing care to patients, you must follow those department-specific protocols. Otherwise, everyone must wear a UConn Health-issued procedure mask while in any UConn Health location. This includes those in academic offices, research spaces, cafeterias, administrative offices, and other UConn Health locations.
Can I purchase my own procedure masks to wear at work, or must I only use a procedure mask issued by UConn Health? What if I already have my own reusable/disposable KN95 mask?
Only UConn Health-issued procedure masks are acceptable. Because there are so many masks available for purchase and because the quality and level of protection of these masks vary greatly (including for KN95 masks that may be purchased), UConn Health cannot attest to the quality/protection of masks that are purchased outside the institution, regardless of their claimed material. By only allowing UConn Health issued procedure masks, we can guarantee a uniform standard of protection across the institution, which will better shield our employees and others from infection and will improve our management of employee exposures. UConn Health-issued procedure masks may be worn over cloth, KN95 or other masks if desired.
How will the masks be issued?
Mask dispensers are located at most entrances to UConn Health facilities or will be made available through your department management. Please only take a mask if you do not already have one. Procedure masks are securely stored in each clinical setting, and managers and departments may also order masks by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How often should procedure masks be replaced?
Procedure masks may be worn for as long as possible, as long as they are not visibly soiled, saturated or damaged. In the event that the mask becomes visibly soiled, saturated or damaged, a new mask must be obtained. All personnel should make every effort to help preserve the supply of PPE and reduce the need for replacement masks whenever possible. Infection Control guidelines should be followed on the use, reuse and storage of procedure masks.
Do we need to wear procedure masks if we are going to be further than 6 feet from others while in our offices or elsewhere in UConn Health facilities?
Employees work in a range of environments and have different office, cubicle and workstation configurations. Not all work settings have the same airflow or physical desk set up. As a general rule, wearing procedure masks is encouraged at all times regardless of office or lab setting. If you work in an area where the person at a neighboring desk or cubicle is less than 6 feet away, wear a mask at all times. If your workspace is in a confined, shared room with other colleagues, wear a mask at all times (even if your desks/cubicles are greater than 6 feet apart). If you are unsure if you share air space, please wear a mask. Those who are further than 6 feet from others in private offices with doors may remove their masks while alone in their office, but must don a mask when another person enters the space.
Are there any other times when we may remove our masks?
Masks may be removed temporarily when eating, but individuals must maintain greater than 6 feet of distance from others when doing so.
Do we need to wear a mask on campus while walking outside or to my car?
Yes, to keep yourself and colleagues safe, and to set an example for the public and to reduce any confusion associated with the universal masking policy, masks must be worn as you exit your vehicle and kept on as you enter UConn Health facilities. Personal masks, including cloth masks, may be worn while on route to pick up a procedural mask at the facility’s entrance, if necessary. At the end of shift, personnel are asked to maintain their use of a mask until they get to their vehicle.
Based on recent CDC research about the benefits of double masking, do we now need to wear two masks at work?
A recent study from the CDC demonstrated that improving the facemask fit can increase its effectiveness in blocking respiratory droplets emitted from the wearer and protecting the wearer from exposure to respiratory droplets. The procedure masks issued to patients and employees at UConn Health contain multiple layers of material with a high level of filtration, and wearing multiple disposable masks is not recommended. We do recommend measures to ensure that masks fits securely over your face without gaps on the sides, which may include:
- Tying knots on the mask’s ear loops and tucking in and flattening the extra material against your face.
- Using a mask fitter or brace to cinch the mask closer to your face.
October 1, 2020: Universal Mask Protocol - Update (Effective September 30, 2020)
On April 3, 2020, UConn Health instituted a Universal Mask protocol that required all employees, patients, learners, visitors and others in UConn Health facilities to wear masks at all times while in any public space or an area of the facility where they may be within 6 feet of another individual.
This communication serves as an update to the UConn Health Universal Mask protocol. All employees, patients, learners, visitors and others will continue to be required to wear masks while in UConn Health facilities, in the absence of a medical contraindication. Based on published science and guidance from public health authorities, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gaiters, bandanas and masks containing exhalation valves will not be considered acceptable masks in satisfying our universal masking requirement. Homemade masks may be worn by employees, patients, learners, visitors and others in non-clinical areas; however, for employees and learners in the clinical areas, homemade masks shall only be worn if covered with a surgical or procedure mask. Additionally, UConn Health-issued N95 respirators with exhalation valves have been approved for use in specific clinical areas for non-sterile procedures only; such respirators shall not be used in any other area or for any other purpose apart from those approved, and all employees and learners must wear a procedure mask over the N95 respirator with exhalation valve issued when wearing such respirators.
Any individual who seeks to enter the facility without an acceptable mask will be provided one prior to entry which will be required to be worn while at UConn Health.
Bandanas, gaiters, and masks with exhalation valves are not allowed.
As a reminder, masks must be worn correctly while on campus, covering the nose and mouth. If a mask cannot satisfactorily cover the nose and mouth the individual will be provided a hospital-issued mask which will be required to be worn while in UConn Health facilities.
In situations in which masks are removed (i.e., eating), individuals must maintain 6 feet of distance from others in order to reduce the potential for infection transmission.