During the COVID-19 (CV-19) crisis, the term mask is frequently used to collectively describe a variety of distinct items, namely: Cloth Face Coverings, Disposable Masks, Medical-Grade Surgical Masks, and N95 Respirators. The following brief summary is provided as an aid in understanding the distinctions between the major categories of masks (face coverings) and their use in reducing the spread of and providing protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes CV-19.

There are instances where it is not required or may not be appropriate to wear a face covering:
  • When a person is in a personal office (a single room with a closable door) and others are not present and coworkers do not regularly visit.
  • While eating or drinking.
  • Individuals who have been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering due to trouble breathing, being incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. In such instances, contact your HR manager to arrange for accommodation.
  • Instances where wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard at work under established health and safety guidelines, including but not limited to:
    • Performing procedures where a surgical mask is required as PPE to protect the individual from exposure to potentially harmful materials (e.g. biological agents), a cloth face covering should not be worn; instead, use a disposable surgical mask.
    • Use of N95 or other respirator is required under normal (non-COVID related) conditions for respiratory protection during normal course of research activities may continue to be used as PPE during those approved activities. When not performing these activities, use a face covering.
    • In assessing the best face covering option, consider matching the material of the lab coat/gown used for the activity (e.g. handling pyrophorics) to the face covering material (e.g. flame resistant cloth).
    • Generally, if there was no risk of exposure to hazardous materials when the activity was performed without any face covering, there is no additional risk of contaminating the cloth covering from the same activity now.
    • The use of engineering controls, (e.g. chemical fume hood or biosafety cabinet) would also protect the user and cloth face covering from possible contamination with proper sash positioning.
    • The highest risk of contamination would be from touching a cloth face covering with contaminated gloves. In the event your face covering becomes contaminated, replace it. In some cases, a face shield could be used to protect the cloth face covering (e.g. chemical splash potential).
    • Assess if work in a chemical fume hood could put the user at risk during hazardous chemical manipulation, particularly where mask wearing could cause safety glasses/goggles to fog up. No face covering may be safer than using a face covering while performing work in a fume hood, glove box, etc.

For clarity, wearing a face covering is only one tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19, and doing so is not a substitute for physical distancing of at least 6 feet for social distancing or 9 feet during prolonged work in the same lab or research workspace with others.

Frequent hand washing is a must!

For more information see UVA Policy: SEC-045: COVID-19 Health & Safety Requirement – Face Masks, Physical Distancing, Events and Gatherings, and Visitors

Mask Type

Cloth Face Coverings

(alternative names: homemade masks, simple masks, cloth masks)

Details

The mouth and nose are fully covered.

Fits snugly, but comfortably against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops.

Can be purchased or homemade, generally with cotton fabric.

Must be laundered daily if using on UVA grounds or in a UVA facility.

Use

Required for Academic Division community (see UVA Policy) use in non-healthcare settings where 6-foot social distancing cannot be consistently maintained.

Not intended to provide protection from inhalation of small particles or virus aerosols.

Provides protection to others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the wearer.

Not considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as defined by OSHA.

Do Not Use When

Your Cloth Face Coverings has a built-in valve. Use a Disposable Mask or Cloth Covering without a built-in valve instead.

Manipulating biological agents outside of biosafety cabinet where sprays, splashes or spills are possible (e.g. stereotaxic administration). Use a Disposable Mask instead.

You should be using a Fire Resistant Mask instead.

Mask Type

Disposable Masks

Details

The mouth and nose are fully covered.

Fits snugly, but comfortably against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops.

Disposable masks may only be worn for one day and then must be disposed of in the trash.

Use

Required for Academic Division community (see UVA Policy) use in non-healthcare settings where 6-foot social distancing cannot be consistently maintained.

Not intended to provide protection from inhalation of small particles or virus aerosols.

Provides protection to others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the wearer.

Not considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as defined by OSHA.

Do Not Use When

Your Disposable Mask has a built-in valve. Use a Disposable Mask without a built-in valve instead.

Performing procedures which create aerosolized particles. Use an N95 respirator instead.

Mask Type

Medical-Grade Surgical Masks

Details

FDA-approved masks to protect the wearer from large droplets and splashes; helps contains wearer's respiratory emissions.

The mouth and nose are fully covered.

Fits snugly, but comfortably against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops.

Use

These masks are usually reserved for healthcare workers and other approved areas with task-specific hazards determined by EHS.

When faculty, staff, and students are required to wear Medical-Grade Surgical Masks for protection, they are considered Personal Protective Equipment and the use is subject to regulation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Do Not Use When

Your Medical-Grade Surgical Mask has a built-in valve. Use a Medical-Grade Surgical Mask without a built-in valve instead.

Performing procedures which create aerosolized particles. Use an N95 respirator instead.

Mask Type

N95 Respirators

(alternative name: N95 Air-Purifying Respirators)

Details

The mouth and nose are fully covered.

N95 respirators are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

To be effective, N95s must provide a tight seal around the wearer’s face; therefore, fit-testing is required.

Under normal circumstances, discarded at end of use. Potential for decontamination, reprocessing and re-use. (e.g. UV-light, Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor, and others referenced by CDC).

Use

Designed to reduce inhalation of small, aerosolized particles, including virus aerosols.

CDC does not recommend that the general public purchase N95 respirators for protection against virus aerosols as N95s are in limited supply at this time and should be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.

When faculty, staff, and students are required to wear N95s for protection, they are considered Personal Protective Equipment and the use is subject to regulation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Do Not Use When

Your N95 respirator has a built-in valve. Use a N95 respirator without a built-in valve instead.

 
 
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