Workplace guidance on face coverings

April 16, 2020

Dear Cornell faculty and staff,

On April 12, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order instructing all employees present in the workplace to wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public, effective 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15.

As such, the university is requiring all employees to wear a face covering or mask when it is not feasible to maintain social distancing (i.e., at least six feet of separation between others) between coworkers, customers or the public. A limited number of employees supporting essential functions continue to report to campus. While not all positions require interaction with others, we believe that this is an important safety measure, especially for dining and facilities staff who may be unable to maintain social distancing.

Face coverings are being provided to employees. Employees are also permitted to wear face coverings or masks that they have made or purchased. Instructions for acquiring face coverings and masks are available on Cornell’s coronavirus website under Workplace Guidelines.

Subsequently, the Governor announced that he plans to issue an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear a mask or a face covering when out in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as while visiting the grocery store or using public transportation. That order is expected to go into effect Friday, April 17.

Wearing a face covering does not replace the need for social distancing or other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. In addition to wearing cloth face coverings, remember to:

  • Avoid contact with those who are sick, stay home if you’re sick and if you become sick at work, distance yourself from co-workers, contact your supervisor and go home.
  • Frequently clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Routinely disinfect high touch points, facilities, work areas, personal electronics and shared equipment and spaces.
  • Consult Environment, Health and Safety’s COVID-19 webpage for employee and supervisor guidance on face coverings and the hierarchy of controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Should questions arise regarding face coverings or other COVID-19-releated workplace health and safety practices, please contact the Department of Environment, Health and Safety at 607-255-8200 or


Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

John Siliciano
Deputy Provost