Face Coverings Guidance

Face coverings (masks) are very important in curbing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2) that causes COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019). Wearing a face covering protects you and others. At SUA unvaccinated persons are required to wear a face covering in all indoor public settings as well as in university vehicles. Additionally, face coverings are recommended for unvaccinated persons outdoors where six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained.

It is important to note that this guidance does not replace or substitute public health measures (i.e. social distance of 6 feet or more, where applicable, frequent hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, refraining from touching any part of face with contaminated hands, and staying home when sick).

When selecting a face covering, there are many choices. Here are some do(s) and don’t(s):

Your Guide to Face Coverings

Green check mark

Do choose masks that:

  • Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps
  • Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask
  • In cold weather, wear your scarf, ski mask, or balaclava over your mask


Red X

Do Not choose masks that:

  • Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, for example, vinyl
  • Have exhalation valves or vents, which allow virus particles to escape
  • Are intended for healthcare workers, including NIOSH-approved N95 respirators
  • In cold weather, scarves, ski masks and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks

Visit the CDC’s Your Guide to Masks for current information as well as on How to Store and Wash Masks.

Special Situations: Glasses

If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or one that has a nose wire to limit fogging.

  • Woman wearing cloth face mask

    Cloth Mask or Face Covering

    Cloth masks are used to cover the nose and mouth, tied behind the head, or secured over the ears with elastic loops. Multiple layers of fabric create a barrier between your nose and mouth and the outside, helping contain any respiratory droplets that you may breathe out. These masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and help keep people who unknowingly have the virus from transmitting it to others.

    Thick, densely woven cotton or multiple layers of breathable fabric (e.g. natural silk, linen) are good materials for cloth masks. The CDC recommends to use cloth masks that have a nose wire (a metal strip along the top of the mask) to help prevent air leakage at the top of the mask.

  • neoprene masks

    Neoprene Masks

    Neoprene masks are typically designed for sports use where wind and thermal protection is desired. Because the material is thick, it can prevent the spread of droplets from the mouth and nose, depending on mask design. Neoprene fabrics are washable and reusable. Masks should be washed before reuse.

  • surgical mask

    Surgical Masks

    These are loose-fitting masks designed to cover the mouth and nose. Although they are not close fitting, surgical masks are fluid resistant and provide some protection from larger respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. However, surgical masks are not designed to protect against smaller droplets, such as SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for COVID-19.

    Primarily, surgical masks help prevent the wearer from spreading infectious droplets to others. Surgical masks are often made of a combination of paper and plastics, and commonly light blue in color. Unlike fabric face coverings, surgical masks cannot be washed and reused. Many surgical masks come with embedded nose wires/clips to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. CDC recommends to use medical procedural masks that have a nose wire (a metal strip along the top of the mask) to help prevent air leakage at the top of the mask.

  • KN95 mask

    KN95 Masks (China)

    China’s KN95 masks are advertised and intended to have filter efficiency of 95% or more. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has learned that many legitimate manufacturers in China have been counterfeited. Some masks with legitimate manufacturer names, showing poor filter penetration results (≤95%), are counterfeit products. NIOSH urges purchasers of masks and respirators that may have questions about the authenticity of these products to contact directly the manufacturers and others in the supply chain as needed to verify that they are obtaining legitimate products. For more questions on legitimacy of KN95s, please contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at extension 4979.

    KN95s tend to have ear loop design which separates them from NIOSH-approved N95s which have head straps/bands. Furthermore, limited assessment of ear loop designs indicate difficulty achieving a good seal with the face.

    Nevertheless, KN95 masks can be used for non-medical purpose (i.e. personal use) as long as their legitimacy is verified and cover nose and mouth. See the CDC website for more details on purchasing foreign respirators. Wearers of KN95s must know that these masks are meant for one-time use only, and cannot be washed and reused. Metal strip of KN95, if present, is intended to mold the nose area to the shape of your nose.

    Do not wear KN95 with other masks. Instead, wear KN95 mask alone only.

  • kf94 mask

    KF94 Masks (South Korea)

    South Korea’s KF94 masks are equivalent to N95 respirators. Like KN95s, KF94s tend to have ear loop design which separates them from NIOSH-approved N95s. Currently, there are no NIOSH-approved products with ear loops; NIOSH-approved N95s have head bands. Furthermore, limited assessment of ear loop designs indicate difficulty achieving a good seal with the face.

    Nevertheless, KF94 masks can be used for non-medical purpose (i.e. personal use) as long as their legitimacy is verified and cover nose and mouth. Wearers of KF94s must know that these masks are meant for one-time use only, and cannot be washed and reused. Metal strip of KF94, if present, is intended to mold the nose area to the shape of your nose.

    Do not wear KF94 with other masks. Instead, wear KF94 mask alone only.

  • NIOSH-approved N95 masks

    NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirators

    If an employee or their supervisor determines that an N95 is needed to perform job duties safely in a workplace, contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for a hazard assessment.

    However, if an employee wishes to wear an N95 on a voluntary basis, they must first contact HR. Such employees will be asked to review Appendix D, Section 5144 of the California Respiratory Protective Equipment standard (the Standard), and acknowledge to HR in writing that they have read and understood the information provided in Appendix D of the Standard regarding the limitations and use of N95s. Moreover, voluntary users of N95s must also watch OSHA’s Putting On and Taking Off a Mask as well as Voluntary Use videos and subsequently acknowledge it in writing.

    Employees wearing N95s must know that it may be hard to achieve a proper fit/seal with certain type of facial hair. Additionally, do not wear N95s with other masks. Instead, wear N95s alone only. Contact EHS for additional questions or concerns.

Green check mark

Recommended Face Coverings/Masks

  • Medical procedure masks (sometimes referred to as surgical masks or disposable face masks)
  • Masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face)
  • Masks made with breathable fabric (such as cotton)
  • Masks made with tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source)
  • Masks with two or three layers
  • Masks with inner filter pockets


Red X

Face Coverings/Masks NOT Recommended

  • Masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose, or too tight)
  • Masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through (such as plastic or leather)
  • Masks with one layer
  • Masks with exhalation valves or vents
  • Wearing a scarf/ski mask

How to Improve Fit and Filtration of Masks

CDC now recommends mask wearers to improve fit and filtration of masks to reduce the spread of new COVID-19 variants, which spread more easily and quickly than the original virus.

Green check mark


  • Choose a mask with a nose wire: Bend the nose wire/clip with your index fingers over your nose to fit close to your face.
  • Use a mask fitter or brace over a disposable mask or a cloth mask to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask.
  • Check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin
  • Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask.
  • Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
  • If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.
  • Add layers of material by:
    • Using a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric, OR
    • Wearing one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask. The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against your face.
  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask
    • Knot the ear loops of a 3-ply face mask where they join the edge of the mask
    • Fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges
    • Video tutorial: https://youtu.be/UANi8Cc71A0


Red X


  • Do NOT combine two disposable masks as they are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.
  • Do NOT combine a KN95 mask with any other mask. Only use one KN95 mask at a time.

Persons exempted from wearing face coverings

  • When alone in a room or a vehicle.
  • Persons younger than two years old.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or a disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes:
    • Persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
    • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • Persons who are seated in cafeteria that offers eat-in food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking.

Note: Employees requesting an accommodation will need to submit a request for accommodation to humanresources@soka.edu. There will be an interactive process that will determine if an accommodation is able to be made.

Dos and Don’ts of Wearing Masks

How to wear a mask illustration
Video: How to wear a fabric mask safely
American Sign interpreter
Video: Mask Dos and Don'ts - American Sign Language (ASL)


  • It is prohibited for any individual to be denied or restricted access or participation based on not wearing a face covering, if the individual states that they are aware of, and that they meet an exemption to, this policy.
  • Enforcement procedures for employees will comply with applicable SUA policies and procedures.
  • Student Affairs is responsible for developing and implementing enforcement procedures for students.
  • If you come across someone you believe might not be properly following the university’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan policies (e.g., face coverings, etc.), fill out COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form to let Human Resources know.

Employees not wearing face coverings

  • If an unvaccinated employee does not put on a face covering when requested, follow up with your supervisor, and respectfully direct the person to their supervisor for more information.
  • Engagement between individuals about the face covering requirement should always align with our respectful workplace standards. It is never acceptable to harass, use a raised voice, physically touch, or otherwise engage in aggressive or disruptive communication or behavior towards other individuals.
  • End conversations before they escalate and reach out to your supervisor for assistance and support.
  • Employees may also share concerns about the face-covering regulation using the COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form.

Students not wearing face coverings

  • If an unvaccinated student does not put on a face covering when requested, gently explain the face covering requirements. If the student continues not to follow the face covering requirement, share concerns using COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form.

Vendors and contractors not wearing face coverings

  • If an unvaccinated visitor or contractor does not put on a face mask when requested, gently remind them that face coverings are required for unvaccinated persons in all campus locations as well as in outdoor public spaces of the university when a physical distance of 6 feet (2 meters) cannot be maintained. If the visitor or contractor refuses to follow the face covering requirements, contact Public Safety or share concerns using COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form.

Additional information

  • Content in these guidelines may be amended if conditions change or guidance from public health authorities evolves. This may include local or state-level laws or guidance related to business practices.
  • The university will provide employees alternatives to face coverings if such alternatives are required. Employees must obtain approval from HR on these requests and students must obtain approval through Student Affairs.
  • It is the responsibility of the individual to handle and launder their face coverings following public health guidelines.
  • Individuals who engage in harassing, discriminatory, bullying, or retaliatory behavior towards others because they are or are not wearing a face covering may be subject to disciplinary action under applicable university policies.
  • The university has established a point of contact for members of the campus community to report concerns about people not complying with this policy: COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form. Employees can also raise concerns with their supervisors. Enforcement should always focus on education first.

Additional resources