Mask Guidance

Updated: April 11, 2022

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 mask protects you and others. At SUA, the masks in indoor public settings for up-to-date and not-up-to-date persons are strongly recommended, but not required. However, the masks are still required to be worn in the Student Health Center, on University shuttles, and during travel for University-sponsored field trips. Additionally, masks are strongly recommended  outdoors where six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. Medical grade masks which, at minimum, are surgical masks and may also include higher grade respirator masks (e.g. KN95, KF94, or N95). Anyone wearing a single-layer, homemade cloth mask, gaiter, bandana, or a mask with a vent must contact HR to obtain appropriate masks.

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 the face with contaminated hands, and staying home when sick).

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

Your Guide to Face Masks

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Do choose masks that:

  • Medical procedure masks (sometimes referred to as surgical masks or disposable face masks)
  • 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
  • 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 Clean and Dry Your Cloth Mask.

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.

Recommended Masks for General Public

  • 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 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 the nose and mouth. See the CDC website for more details on purchasing foreign respirators. Wearers of KN95s must know that these masks cannot be washed and reused. The 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 cannot be washed and reused. The 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 the 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 types of facial hair. Additionally, do not wear N95s with other masks. Instead, wear N95s alone only. Contact EHS for additional questions or concerns.

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Recommended 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 non-cloth materials (e.g. KN95s) that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source
  • Masks with two or three layers


Red X

Masks NOT Recommended

  • Masks made from fabric that is loosely woven or knitted, such as fabrics that let light pass through
  • 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

Here are some ways to reduce the spread of new COVID-19 variants, which spread more easily and quickly than the original virus.

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  • 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 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.


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/KF95/N95mask with any other mask. Only use one KN95, KF94, or N95 mask at a time.

Where masks are recommended, the following persons are exempted from wearing masks:

  • 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 mask. This includes:
    • Persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask 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 mask 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: Any employee having a reservation about masks must contact

Dos and Don’ts of Wearing Masks

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 mask, 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., masks, etc.), fill out COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form to let Human Resources know.

Individuals not wearing masks

  • Engagement between individuals about the masks 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 and students may also share concerns about the mask policy using the COVID-19 Hazard Alert Form.

Vendors and contractors not wearing masks

  • While masks are strongly recommended in most areas and situations, they may be required in certain areas or situations (e.g. Health Center). Gently remind vendors and contractors of areas and situations where masks may be required on campus. If the visitor or contractor refuses to follow the guidance where required, contact Campus Security 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 masks 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 maintain their masks following public health guidelines.
  • Individuals who engage in harassing, discriminatory, bullying, or retaliatory behavior towards others because they are or are not wearing a mask 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