Face Coverings & PPE
New York state continues to take action to combat the spread of COVID-19, including requiring all residents to wear a mask and practice physical distancing (maintaining a six-foot distance from others) in indoor public spaces. Wearing a mask and remaining physically distant from others – together with regular hand washing and the use of sanitizer and keeping your hands and fingers away from your face – are the very best ways for you to control the spread of the virus. For the mask to protect others, it must be worn over your nose and mouth.
In accordance with New York state emergency regulations, Cornell must deny entry to university-owned buildings and compel the removal of any person who fails to comply with face covering requirements.
Further guidance on how to protect yourself and others is available from the New York State Department of Health.
How to Wear a Mask
Masks CAN prevent inhaling and exhaling the virus, protecting you and those around you. Have a mask on your person at all times.
Masks CAN’T replace the need for other protective measures, like physical distancing and handwashing.
Face Covering Guidance
When should I wear a face covering?
Wearing a mask or face covering can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. A significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. Droplets and aerosols that contain the virus can remain suspended for hours, and be transported several meters from the source. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. Face coverings can reduce both the emission of the virus when worn by an infectious person and reduce the uptake of the virus when worn by a person in proximity to an infectious person.
- Outdoors: All unvaccinated employees, students and visitors are required to have a mask or face covering readily available on their person when on campus outdoors and to put on their mask or face covering when it is NOT feasible to maintain physical distancing measures (i.e., at least six-feet of separation between others). Fully vaccinated employees and students who have uploaded their proof of vaccination are no longer required to wear a mask when meeting outdoors in a group of 10 people or fewer.
- Indoors: Anyone entering a building must put on a mask or face covering prior to entry and continue to wear a mask or face covering in common areas such as classrooms, elevators, lobbies and bathrooms, and while traveling around the building and working in shared spaces. Additionally, masks and face coverings are required in common areas of residence halls, dining halls, community centers, the Cornell Stores, and other retail locations and gathering spaces across campus. Face coverings or masks can only be removed when alone in a cubicle, office or other unit-designated area following physical distancing guidelines. (Note: For the intent of this procedure, cubicle is defined as a space with three walls at least five-feet in height.)
- Organized Outdoor Events: Mask wearing as well as physical distancing are required for all outdoor events. If the event includes food, masks may be removed while dining as long as physical distancing is maintained.
Consult the EHS COVID-19 website for additional guidance on face coverings and the hierarchy of controls guidance document.
What are the best practices when using a cloth face covering? How do I make one at home?
It is critical to emphasize that maintaining six-feet physical distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
Cloth coverings should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- be made of tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and cotton blends
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
- The CDC has instructions for making cloth face coverings at home.
When wearing a face covering, remember to:
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol prior to putting on a face covering.
- Ensure the face covering fits snugly around the mouth and nose.
- Avoid touching the face covering while using it. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Do not wear a face covering when it is damp or when wet from spit or mucus.
- When removing the face covering, remove it from behind, do not touch the front.
- After removing the face covering, immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Can I clean or reuse a mask or face covering?
Because of increased demand, face coverings and masks may not be readily available for purchase and deliveries may have long lead times. Faculty, staff and students are requested to conserve and reuse masks when feasible.
- Use disposable coverings and masks until they become damaged, soiled or wet. If a mask becomes damp from normal respiration, perspiration, or from water, remove the mask and store in an uncontaminated area (e.g. paper bag, in belongings, or locker) to allow the mask to dry and then reuse when feasible.
- Use reusable coverings and masks until they become damaged, soiled or wet. Damaged coverings should be disposed of.
- Reusable coverings should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use. Standard washing practices and machine washing are satisfactory to properly wash a face covering.
- Be sure to have a backup covering or mask available.
What is double masking? Do I need to wear two masks?
Double masking involves wearing two masks at once (i.e., wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask). A recent CDC study found that double masking may increase the overall effectiveness of a single mask by providing additional layers for trapping and blocking respiratory droplets that contain virus particles. The study also found that wearing a mask that fits tightly to your face (e.g., a single procedure or surgical mask with knotted ear loops and tucked-in sides) was equally as effective as double masking. The study found that both methods of wearing tightly fitted masks decreased exposure to potentially infectious aerosols by up to 95%.
Can I get an accommodation if I am unable to wear a mask or face covering?
Employees who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition or other protected reason may submit an ADA workplace accommodation. Contact the Medical Leaves Administration in Human Resources by email at email@example.com.Students who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition or other protected reason should contact Student Disability Services.
If I am wearing a mask do I still need to stay six feet away from others?
Wearing a face covering does not replace the need for physical distancing. The CDC's recommendation to wear face coverings complements and does not replace other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. For more information, consult the COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls guidance document.
As such, in addition to wearing face coverings, remember to:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home from work if you are feeling sick. If you become sick at work, distance yourself from others and contact your supervisor.
- Periodically clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol prior to touching face, handling shared equipment and putting on or touching your face covering or mask.
- Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in a waste basket. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth and face, as well as your face covering when outside the confines of your own home.
- Periodically disinfect high touch points, shared areas and equipment and personal electronics with products that meet EPA criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.
- For additional guidance, consult the COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls.
Do I have to wear a mask when I am outside and alone/exercising?
Unvaccinated faculty, staff and students are required to have a mask or face covering readily available on their person when on campus outdoors and to put on their face covering when it is not feasible to maintain physical distancing measures.
If you are walking, running, exercising or biking alone, you only need to put on your face covering when physical distancing is not possible. For example, when you are passing someone on a sidewalk or trail and there is not enough space to allow six feet of separation.
I’m with the same people all day, why do we have to wear masks and stay six feet apart when we are together?
A rigorous testing program like the one Cornell has instituted can identify infected individuals and slow the spread of COVID-19, but it is preferable to prevent infection in the first place through simple measures like face coverings and physical distancing. The individuals with whom you have daily contact likely have contact with numerous other people outside the workplace, and studies show a large proportion of infected individuals never show symptoms. While the university is requiring frequent testing of students and employees, there is still a chance that the virus may be present in your workplace, and practicing mask wearing and physical distancing helps to provide another safeguard for you and your peers or co-workers.
How am I supposed to eat with my mask on?
If you do not have a private space in which to eat, you may dine at designated eating areas or outside while maintaining physical distance. You may remove your mask while eating, but should put it back on when you have finished eating.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do departments and units obtain PPE?
- Departments and units can purchase PPE through multiple vendors using Cornell eShop and/or the Chemistry Storeroom.
- To ensure that campus needs are met, Cornell has put in place a Critical Supply Storeroom of difficult-to-source PPE. Details and an order form are on the upper left-hand corner of the eShop landing page.
- Not sure what PPE is needed? Resources are available on the EHS website, and you can always ask EHS for assistance.
- For additional support with procurement, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Procurement helpline at (607) 254-5300 for assistance.
I’m working in a Cornell-owned building or facility. Will Cornell provide me with a face covering?
Yes. In accordance with New York state emergency regulations, Cornell will provide face coverings to employees working on-site. Contact your supervisor to secure a face covering for use at work.
Where do faculty and staff get PPE?
- Lab managers, office managers and other Facilities staff have stocked up on PPE in preparation for the semester. Check with your department manager on arrangements made for you and your team.
- Local IT teams will be distributing masks and Lavalier lapel microphones (for instructors teaching in person with remote students). Instructors who need additional PPE should contact their local facilities team.
- Need a box of masks to have on hand? Contact Tammy Johnson in Facilities and Campus Services.