Face Coverings    

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies and evidence on infection control report that these droplets usually travel around 6 feet (about two arms lengths).

Wearing face coverings in public settings, along with other social distancing measures can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

What is a face covering?
What is a face covering?

A face covering is a cloth, bandana, or other type of material that covers an individual’s mouth and nose. They should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape.

FDA-approved surgical masks may also be used as a face covering.

What is the purpose of the face covering?
What is the purpose of the face covering?

Wearing a face covering is about protecting others and our Aggie Community. Those with COVID-19, even those who do not know they have COVID-19, naturally expel droplets contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 when breathing, talking, sneezing, coughing, etc. Wearing a face covering in public shows you care enough to protect others. Additionally, limiting virus spread allows the campus to resume some normal operations, including face-to-face classes without the need to return to full remote instruction.

What is considered a public space?
What is considered a public space?

A public space is any indoor space other than your own private office, residence (including residence hall room or apartment) or personal vehicle. Public spaces include lobbies, restrooms, cafeterias, classrooms, common spaces of residence halls, conference rooms, and break rooms. Face coverings should be worn in any enclosed public space, even if you are by yourself, or any outdoor space where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to be reliably maintained. Since this is a university requirement, this policy covers university-owned spaces except where a space exception has been allowed and is marked by appropriate signage.

Who is responsible for providing face coverings to faculty, staff and students? What about visitors and contractors?
Who is responsible for providing face coverings to faculty, staff and students? What about visitors and contractors?

It is the responsibility of the individual to provide their own face covering. However, each unit may keep a small amount of disposable face coverings on hand for visitors.

Are there other options for face coverings besides a cloth mask or a surgical mask?
Are there other options for face coverings besides a cloth mask or a surgical mask?

There are a variety of cloth face coverings available, including FDA approved surgical masks, that you can find online or you can make your own following the straightforward CDC guidelines. CDC recommends at least two layers of tightly knit cotton or the more detailed Olson design by medical professionals. We do not recommend wearing a disposable N95 respirator instead of a cloth face covering or surgical mask. In some cases, an exemption of the policy could include the use of a face shield. 

Do I wear a face covering while eating or drinking?
Do I wear a face covering while eating or drinking?

No, you do not need to wear a face covering while eating or drinking. After removing your face covering for eating, place the face covering into a bag to help keep the material clean and away from other people and items in your proximity. As soon as your meal is complete, wash your hands or clean your hands with hand sanitizer and replace your face covering, then clean your hands again.

Am I required to wear a face covering while in my on-campus room or apartment?
Am I required to wear a face covering while in my on-campus room or apartment?

Face coverings are not required when students are in their personal on-campus residence hall rooms/suites or apartments (including private and suite-style bathrooms). You should apply the same thought process that you used while living at home with your family. When you and your roommate first come together at the start of the semester, you should have a discussion around face covering expectations. However, if one of you were to develop COVID-19 related symptoms, then face coverings should be worn until a healthcare professional can been consulted.

Do I need to wear a face covering in the hallways and other areas of my residence hall?
Do I need to wear a face covering in the hallways and other areas of my residence hall?

Face coverings are strongly recommended when students and visitors are in residence hall/apartment hallways or while visiting other students’ rooms/apartments. Face coverings are required while in common areas and community bathrooms, except for while showering. Residents should perform activities that require touching of the face (brushing teeth, washing face, etc.) at the sinks in their rooms instead of at sinks in the community bathrooms. Face coverings are required in the Commons and the first floor of Hullabaloo Hall, as these are public spaces.

Are face coverings required while operating a university vehicle?
Are face coverings required while operating a university vehicle?

Yes, face coverings must be worn in a shared vehicle, even if no one else is in the vehicle, to decrease respiratory secretions on surfaces within the vehicle. Contaminated surfaces may still be a source of infection after you have left. If the vehicle is assigned to a single employee, and that person is alone in the vehicle, a face covering does not need to be worn.

Are face coverings required in work areas that are seperated by cubicle walls or partitions?
Are face coverings required in work areas that are seperated by cubicle walls or partitions?

Face coverings must be worn in any public area, even if you are in your own workspace. However, a workspace is not in a public area when it allows for reliably maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from others and includes a physical barrier between other workspaces. In these areas, a face covering is highly recommended but not required.

If I have already had COVID-19, do I have to wear a face covering?
If I have already had COVID-19, do I have to wear a face covering?

Yes. Scientific understanding of COVID-19 is still evolving, and currently it is not known if those who have had the disease can be re-infected and become contagious again.

What if I encounter a scenario that is not clear on if I should wear a face covering?
What if I encounter a scenario that is not clear on if I should wear a face covering?

You should use your own knowledge, as well as refer to the Aggie Core Values of Respect, Leadership, and Selfless service, and you should select the option that best protects and comforts those around you. A good standard to follow is to wear a face covering in public settings, especially where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Can a student, faculty or staff member request an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering?
Can a student, faculty or staff member request an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering?

Student requests for exemptions based on a religious concern should contact the Todd Sutherland within the Division of Student Affairs at sutherlt@tamug.edu. Faculty and staff should contact Galveston Campus Human Resources at hr@tamug.edu.

Some students, faculty or staff may not be able to wear a face covering due to a pre-existing medical condition or other disability (e.g., asthma, respiratory disease, inability to remove a face covering without assistance). Students should contact the Office of Career and Counseling Services at (409) 740-4736 or studentservices@tamug.edu to request an exemption through the accommodations request process. Faculty and staff should contact Galveston Campus Human Resources at hr@tamug.edu.

Advance notice of the need for accommodations/exemptions can help to ensure that there is adequate time to review the request and make a decision on a case-by-case basis. If a student has been approved for this exception to the policy, they will be given an accommodation or exemption letter to provide to faculty members to allow them to remain in class without a face covering. If possible, a face shield should be worn instead of a face covering. If this is not possible, the CDC recommends limiting exposure to others and maintaining a 6 feet physical distance at all times in the absence of a face covering. Students may also consider using available distance education options.

For areas or occupations where wearing a face covering is not feasible and is not based on a disability or religious concern, requests may be made to the Face Coverings Committee by sending an email message to facecovering@tamu.edu. Requests should include the reason that face coverings are not feasible and the additional safety measures taken to further mitigate the risk in the absence of face coverings.

Who reviews exemption requests for employees and visitors based on disability or religious concern?
Who reviews exemption requests for employees and visitors based on disability or religious concern?

Employee and visitor requests for accommodations related to a pre-existing medical condition or other disability (e.g., asthma, respiratory disease, inability to remove a face covering without assistance) will follow the University SAP for Accommodations. Employee and visitor requests for exemptions based on a religious concern should contact Texas A&M University at Galveston Human Resources.

Who reviews exemption requests related to areas on campus and/or job requirements?
Who reviews exemption requests related to areas on campus and/or job requirements?
Do I need to wear a face covering if it impairs my ability to do my job?
Do I need to wear a face covering if it impairs my ability to do my job?

To keep our community safe, a face covering must be worn in all public areas. If doing so impairs an employee’s ability to do their job based on a disability, the employee should follow the University SAP for Accommodations. With regard to areas on campus and job requirements unrelated to a disability or religious concern, please send a request for this exception to the Face Coverings Committee at facecovering@tamu.edu. Requests for exemptions should include the reason that face coverings are not feasible and the additional safety measures taken to further mitigate the risk in the absence of face coverings. In some cases, a face shield may be an acceptable face covering substitute. 

How should I raise a concern about someone not adhering to the face covering requirement?
How should I raise a concern about someone not adhering to the face covering requirement?

Please contact the faculty or staff member who is supervising the person or the space where the infraction occurred (for example, the building proctor or department head). The department head or building leadership will be in a position to ascertain whether the person has an exemption and, if not, politely direct the person to wear a face covering or vacate the public space.

Can student or employees be directed to vacate University property by a supervisor if they refuse to wear a face covering?
Can student or employees be directed to vacate University property by a supervisor if they refuse to wear a face covering?

Yes, unless they have received an exemption (described above) or the area or position has been granted a waiver from the face coverings policy. The agreement to come back to campus includes a requirement to follow all safety regulations. If individuals are not wearing a face covering in a public space, the first response should be a collegial reminder and an offer of a clean face covering, if one is available. If the individual refuses to wear a face covering, a supervisor (for students this could be a faculty member or a staff member overseeing the area) may direct the individual to leave the public space. For example, a faculty member could direct a student to attend a class remotely rather than in person. If the individual refuses to wear a face covering or leave the space, this should be reported to Student Affairs (students), Human Resources (staff) or Dean of Faculties (faculty) and dealt with using established disciplinary mechanisms.

If I have a student in my class who is deaf or hard of hearing, should I wear a face covering?
If I have a student in my class who is deaf or hard of hearing, should I wear a face covering?

For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, opaque face coverings can be a hindrance to communication either due to lack of ability to read lips or difficulties using a sign language interpreter. Faculty are encouraged to work with Disability Resources to determine appropriate accommodations (e.g., wearing a face shield or a transparent face covering to accommodate students relying on lip reading). For classes using sign language interpreters, interpreters will either wear a face shield or provide remote interpreting. Much like for an online class, the interpreter will not be located in the same room as the class, but will be using technology to connect to the class and transmit the interpretation to the student.

Are there limits to the design of the face covering?
Are there limits to the design of the face covering?

The policy on Expressive Activity on Campus (08.99.99.M1) states: “Displaying a sign, gesturing, wearing symbolic clothing or otherwise protesting silently is permissible unless it is a disruptive activity or impedes access.” Disruptive activity is defined as obstruction, disruption or interference with classes, research, administrative functions or other university activities. Acts that are disruptive to the normal operations of the university, including classes and university business, or that invade the rights of others, will not be tolerated.