Updated: July 22, 2020

Please note: the Guidelines are interim only and are subject to revision, until we can complete consultation with stakeholders.

Do I have to wear a face covering when on campus?

Yes. Per University of Hawaiʻi policy, all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear face coverings onsite when interacting in-person with others, when indoors and where physical distancing is not possible (refer to CDC guidelines (PDF) for the proper handling of face coverings), with exceptions noted in the UH Guidelines.

Are employers required to provide face coverings to workers?

Per OSHA’s website “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions,” face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. Face coverings are considered a means of “source control” of the virus. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.

However, employers may choose to ensure that cloth face coverings are worn as a feasible means of abatement in a control plan designed to address hazards from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Employers may choose to use cloth face coverings as a means of source control, such as because of transmission risk that cannot be controlled through engineering or administrative controls, including physical distancing.

This is similar to the employer requiring employees to wear long pants in the workplace. They can require employees to wear certain types of clothing (pants) but are not required to provide these items to individuals.

I work in a research lab or support shop. Should I wear a face covering?

Yes. Unless wearing a face covering increases risk related to laboratory or support shop work, wearing one per UH Guidelines is required. Cloth face coverings are acceptable for most research activities and shop areas using standard precautions of use (donning and doffing, cleaning, and care). However, changes to the type of material used as a face covering may be necessary based on specific activities such as work in a Biological lab or work with pyrophorics. For mask material questions in these areas, please contact your supervisor and EHSO or ORC representative. Additionally, great care must be taken to ensure that face coverings do not present issues of getting caught in machinery. For areas using machines and moving parts, an analysis of the work must be done by the supervisor first to establish written protocols. If a mask is unable to be worn for these reasons, other accommodations or planning (such as increased distancing from others) should be made.

I cannot wear a face covering because of a medical condition. What should I do?

If you are not able to wear a face covering for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the face covering without assistance, you may seek a reasonable accommodation to be exempt from wearing one. Consult your campus Equal Opportunity Office for guidance. If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you have the option of wearing a face shield instead, though note the additional measures that should be in place such as increased physical distancing.

My prescription glasses fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

If your glasses are fogging up when you wear a face covering, it is likely that there is too much of a gap around the nose. Here are a few ways to manage this:

  • Wear a face covering that has an adjustable wire at the bridge of the nose. Ensure that the material fits snugly around the nose.
  • Rest your glasses over your face covering to help block the air from escaping, thus preventing fogging.
  • Use an anti-fogging eye glass/safety glass cleaning wipe. In addition to helping to remove smudges on your glasses, these wipes deposit a thin film that helps to prevent fogging. If you do not have anti-fogging wipes, try baby shampoo*, glycerine soap*, dishwashing detergent*, or a small amount of toothpaste* on a soft cloth to clean your glasses. Shake off the excess and let them air dry. This technique leaves a thin film that reduces surface tension that builds up from your breath, causing fogging.

*If one of the alternatives to anti-fogging wipes are used, avoid the use of fragranced materials and materials claiming superlative cleaning properties (grease cutting, whitening, etc) as these may contain additives that can be irritating or harmful to your eyes and skin.

I need to wear safety glasses and they fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

By forming a tight seal across the nose and under your eyes, safety goggles are far less likely to fog up than safety glasses. Consider wearing goggles instead. Alternatively, follow the guidance above for prescription glasses.

I find it difficult to breathe or very uncomfortable to wear a face covering. May I opt not to wear one on campus?

If you are not able to wear a face covering for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the face covering without assistance, you may seek a reasonable accommodation to be exempt from wearing one. Consult your campus Equal Opportunity Office for guidance. If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you have the option of wearing a face shield instead, though they are not proven to be as effective as a means of source control. Because of this, when an accommodation is provided for the use of a face shield without a mask, additional measures should be in place. For example, the wearer should be 12 or more feet distant from others, and the room should be well ventilated. Other downsides to using face shields instead of a mask include:

  • Disposable face shields, used by healthcare workers for droplet protection, are relatively expensive and sometimes in short supply.
  • Face shields require daily (or more frequent) cleaning.
  • Speech can be distorted when a microphone is used with a face shield.

My work causes my face covering to get dirty or wet quickly. What should I do?

If your work causes your face covering to get very sweaty, dirty, or wet, consider these options:

  • Wear a lightweight face shield over your face covering to protect it from dirt, splashes, and other materials.
  • Change your face covering often during the work and wash them all at the end of the day.
  • Use two layers of face coverings and replace the outer one as needed.
  • Consider using disposable masks and change them as needed.

Do I need to wear a face covering when walking around campus during times when the campus or campus walkways are crowded, such as during class change?

While face coverings are not required outdoors if social distancing is possible, it is advisable to wear one when the areas where you are walking are crowded.

May I wear a face shield instead of a cloth face covering?

No. At this time, the definition of face covering does not include face shields. You can wear a face shield over your face covering for added protection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend use of face shields in place of cloth or disposable face coverings, mostly because there is not enough evidence that the face shield alone prevents the spray of respiratory particles from a cough, sneeze, speaking loudly, etc. from spreading outside the face shield. For those using a face shield as an accommodation, additional measures should be in place such as increased distancing.

Can I wear a face covering with an exhalation valve?

No. Face coverings, masks, or respirators with exhalation valves should be avoided as they do not protect those around you from expelled respiratory droplets and aerosols.

Note: We gratefully acknowledge and thank our colleagues at Princeton and Yale Environmental Health and Safety Office’s for sharing information contained within this reference for use with permission, with disclaimers.

Last modified: July 23, 2020