The University of Hawaiʻi will continue to adapt its COVID-19 guidelines for the 10-campus system to reflect the most up-to-date state and federal recommendations, as more people are vaccinated and reported cases decline. The UH community will be notified when significant updates are made to the UH COVID-19 guidelines and web pages. Mahalo for your patience.
Please note: the Guidelines are interim only and are subject to revision, until we can complete consultation with stakeholders. Revised August 17, 2021.
Do I have to wear a mask when on campus?
All students, along with employees and visitors, must wear masks indoors while on campus. This includes classrooms, laboratories, offices, shops and common spaces such as hallways and elevators. Classroom and teaching laboratories are considered public spaces, and masks should be worn at all times if there is more than one person in the room. Face masks with a clear window over the mouth are allowed if visible facial features are necessary to support learning or an activity.
Face masks are not required when outdoors, including lanais/patios. They are strongly recommended in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others. You are not required to wear a face covering while working in isolation, (for instance, if you are working in a room by yourself) or if you have a medical condition or disability where wearing a face mask poses a health or safety risk. Reasonable accommodations will be made in those instances.
Are employers required to provide masks to workers?
Per OSHA’s website “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions,” masks 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. Masks 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 masks 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 masks 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 mask?
Yes. Unless wearing a mask increases risk related to laboratory or support shop work, wearing one per UH Guidelines is required. Cloth masks 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 mask 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 masks 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 mask because of a medical condition. What should I do?
If you are not able to wear a mask for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the mask 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 mask, you have the option of wearing a face shield instead, however you should remain more than 12 feet apart from others as face shields alone do not protect one from transmitting the virus to others (source control) and is not fully protective against someone transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus to you.
My prescription glasses fog up when I wear a mask. What can I do?
If your glasses are fogging up when you wear a mask, it is likely that there is too much of a gap around the nose. Here are a few ways to manage this:
- Wear a mask 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 mask 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. Note that in order for the goggles to be protective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they should be sealed and unvented (or an indirect vent). Goggles with vents are not protective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Alternatively, follow the guidance above for prescription glasses.
I find it difficult to breathe or very uncomfortable to wear a mask. May I opt not to wear one on campus?
If you are not able to wear a mask for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the mask 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 mask, 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 mask to get dirty or wet quickly. What should I do?
If your work causes your mask 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 mask often during the work and wash them all at the end of the day.
- Use two layers of masks and replace the outer one as needed.
- Consider using disposable masks and change them as needed.
Do I need to wear a mask when walking around campus during times when the campus or campus walkways are crowded, such as during class change?
Masks are not required in outdoor spaces, including lanais/patios. However, they are strongly recommended in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. We would recommend that you use a mask when campus walkways and outdoor areas are crowded.
May I wear a face shield instead of a mask?
No. At this time, the definition of mask does not include face shields. You can wear a face shield over your mask 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 masks, 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 mask 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.