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Rockefeller University Policy on Face Covering: Updated August 15, 2021

The University policy is informed by recommendations issued by the CDC, the level of vaccination in our community, COVID infection rates in the region and the nation, and evidence of increased infectiousness of the Delta variant.

Effective July 28, 2021, all RU/HHMI employees and students are required to wear face covering everywhere indoors on campus with the following exceptions (please note that none of these exceptions apply to unvaccinated individuals, who must wear face coverings at all times while on campus premises, indoors and outdoors):

  • Employees in single occupancy offices are not required to wear masks while alone in the office.
  • Residents of GSR and SF do not need to wear masks or face coverings in their apartments but must wear them in public areas of the buildings.
  • Face covering can be removed for brief periods to eat or drink; social distancing should be maintained.
  • Employees covered by the University Hot Environment Program are permitted to remove face coverings for frequent breaks when working in the hot environment as long as they are at least six feet separated from any other person.
  • Effective immediately, groups comprised entirely of vaccinated individuals can meet indoors without social distancing requirements. As a result, the permissible capacities for conference rooms are now back to the standards that were in effect in June (and new signs are being posted). In such in-person meetings, everyone must still wear a face mask, with the exception of someone presenting/speaking who can maintain social distance from the others. Virtual access to such meetings must be made available to anyone who does not want to be present in person. Eating/drinking is not permitted during these meetings. When conference/meeting rooms are being used for eating/drinking, social distancing must be maintained so the permissible capacity is reduced, which is also indicated on the revised signage.
  • The change in the University masking policy is a direct response to the recent wave of COVID-19 infections in our community caused by SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant. Although the risk of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people is low, and the risk of transmission between vaccinated people is even lower, the use of a face mask or covering can potentially prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from infected people who are asymptomatic to others. Face masks work best when everyone wears them. The video highlighted in this article illustrates droplet spread from someone speaking with and without a cloth face covering. Wearing a mask or face covering is a complementary measure, not a replacement for established preventive measures, which include vaccination, physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth.

    Obtaining a face covering

    RU employees may use their personally-owned face coverings on campus.

    Ear-loop 3-ply surgical masks are available to Laboratories and Departments from the University Stockroom (Stock Item # 179200) for distribution to laboratory or department staff members.

    The University continues to offer enrollment in the Respiratory Protection Program for issuance of N95 respirators at the request of the Head of Laboratory or Head of Department for employees who commute to the University using public transportation. Request for enrollment should be sent to

    Acceptable face covering

    All face coverings, whether disposable or reusable, must

    • fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin;
    • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face; and
    • be secured with ties or ear loops, allowing one to remain hands-free.

    We recommend that you use face coverings made of at least two layers of breathable material and encourage the use of three-ply surgical masks.

    Face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable under this policy.

    Note that face shields are not acceptable as substitutes for face coverings. The CDC offers this information:

    It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. Some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

    Therefore, unless a face shield is coupled with a face mask, it is not considered an acceptable face covering under this policy.

    The CDC provides additional guidance on face coverings. This guidance was updated on April 19, 2021 with information about choosing and fitting a mask, mask fitters and braces, double-masking and KN95s.

    Face mask dos and don’ts

    Face masks are only effective for protection if they are handled, worn, stored and disposed of properly. And wearing one does not negate the need for maintaining appropriate social distance, hand and cough/sneeze hygiene and avoiding touching one’s face.

    • Do practice proper hand hygiene. Before and after handling the mask (to put on, adjust, or take off), either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to reduce cross-contamination risk. The outside of the mask should always be considered dirty.
    • Do mark the outside of the mask in some way so you can easily identify which side is the outside of the mask and handle it accordingly.
    • Always store a mask in a clean place. Never store it in a purse or pocket.
    • Don’t touch the outside of your mask while it is on your face.
    • Don’t pull your mask below your chin while you are wearing it. Leaving the mask dangling or improperly fitted to your face creates opportunities for cross-contamination.
    • If you choose to double mask, be sure to wear any disposable mask under a cloth mask. Do not wear two disposable masks. Do not use two masks at a time if it makes breathing difficult.
    • Designs and graphics on face coverings should be appropriate for the University setting.