Universal Mask Protocol Update (Effective May 20, 2021)
UConn Health has had a Universal Mask Protocol in place since April 3, 2020 with periodic updates based on COVID-19 data, safety evidence, and state and federal public health recommendations. The new guidance issued on May 19, 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), does not apply to UConn Health as a health care institution. The Universal Mask Protocol remains unchanged and in effect at UConn Health for all indoor facilities.
These guidelines will continue to be updated based on guidance from federal and state agencies, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated and the rapidly evolving science and understanding of COVID-19 transmission.
Key Points Applicable to All UConn Health Sites
- This protocol requires everyone in UConn Health facilities, regardless of vaccination status, to wear an approved mask 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.
- Gaiters, bandanas and masks containing exhalation valves* will NOT be considered acceptable masks in satisfying our universal masking requirement.
- Any individual who seeks to enter the facility without an acceptable mask will be provided one at entry which will be required to be worn while at UConn Health.
- As a reminder, approved masks must be worn correctly, covering the nose and mouth, while at any UConn Health facility.
- In situations in which masks are removed (i.e., eating), individuals must maintain greater than 6 feet of distance from others.
- Continuous wearing of masks is not required in outdoor spaces where a 6-foot distance from others can be maintained.
*Note: N95s 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 N95. For questions on this matter, please consult UConn Environmental Health and Safety.
Patients and Visitors
Patients and visitors are permitted to wear their own well-fitting cloth mask, disposable mask, or respirator upon arrival and throughout their visit to UConn Health. This excludes gaiters, bandanas, and masks with exhalation valves.
- Patients who are not able to wear an approved mask for medical reasons should speak with their care team regarding their individual circumstances prior to coming to campus for the visit.
- Visitors who are not able to wear an approved mask will be encouraged to use telephone or virtual communication. Exceptions for extenuating circumstances are made at the discretion of clinical leadership.
- Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2 or anyone who cannot wear one safely due to a disability.
Employees, Learners, and Badged Contractors
Employees, learners, and badged contractors will continue to be required to wear UConn Health issued procedure masks while in any UConn Health facilities. This includes clinical, academic, research, institutional support, administrative, facilities, dining, and all other areas.
- All personnel are asked to make every effort to help preserve the supply of PPE and reduce the need for replacement masks whenever possible.
- Face masks should be provided by the department manager or supervisory personnel in the area the individual is working. While masks are available at entry points, supplies are limited and should be reserved for unusual circumstances.
- Managers should contact PPE@uchc.edu for issuance.
- Face masks can be worn throughout the shift and upon return to work if stored safely, handled properly and when not soiled, wet or distorted.
- In the event that the mask becomes visibly soiled, saturated or damaged, a new mask must be obtained.
Bandanas, gaiters, and masks with exhalation valves are not allowed.
Please wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when entering our facility. If you do not have a mask, or if your face covering is one of the unacceptable types, we will provide a mask for you.
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 email@example.com.
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.