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Rockefeller University Policy on Face Covering

In response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order requiring everyone in New York State to wear a mask or face covering when out in public beginning April 17th at 8 pm, the University is issuing new guidance for employees and students who work or reside in University’s facilities.

Effective immediately and until further notice, anyone on the University campus or in public areas of University housing are required to wear a face mask or face covering when out in public or when social distancing is not possible. Employees working alone in a private office and residents who are in their apartments do not need to wear masks or face coverings, but anytime you are on campus, whether outside or inside a University building, or in public areas of University housing, you must wear a mask or face covering. Exception is made for brief periods to eat or drink.

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.

The use of a face mask or covering can potentially slow the spread of the virus preventing people who may have the virus but are asymptomatic from transmitting it to others. The video highlighted in this article illustrates droplet spread from someone speaking with and without a cloth face covering. These masks do NOT protect the wearer from the virus. Wearing a mask or face covering is a complementary measure, not a replacement for established preventive measures, which include 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. For use in a laboratory, the face covering should be tight-fitting.

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

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.

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.

Please refer to the CDC’s web page on face coverings for a more complete treatment of this topic.

Advice and guidance for making cloth face coverings can be found from numerous sources, including the NYTimes and the Surgeon General.

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.
  • Do keep a paper bag handy for storing the mask every time you take it off; an open plastic Ziploc-style baggie is an alternative if a paper bag is not available. 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.
  • Designs and graphics on face coverings should be appropriate for the University setting.