COVID-19 GUIDANCE

FACE COVERINGS
Updated June 23, 2020, 11:00 a.m. CST


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As we return to campus over the summer and in the fall, the health and safety of the Aggies (students, faculty and staff), especially of vulnerable individuals, is of paramount importance. In light of CDC guidance, and to protect your fellow Aggies against COVID-19, face coverings (cloth face covering, surgical mask, etc.) must be worn by all individuals (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) on campus or at off-campus activities that are sponsored by TAMUG or TAMUG recognized student organizations in the following areas:

  1. Indoor public areas, except where marked otherwise, even if you are alone (includes all non-private office or residential spaces such as lobbies, restrooms, classrooms, teaching laboratories, research laboratories, common spaces in residence halls, conference rooms, and break rooms); and

  2. Outdoor spaces where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to reliably maintain. This policy will be amended as needed in response to conditions on campus.
General Questions
What is a face covering?
What is a face covering?

Definition of a Face Covering (Face Mask): According to CDC guidance and Texas A&M University, for the purpose of the COVID-19 pandemic an effective cloth face covering will:

  • Include multiple layers of tightly woven fabric
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties, ear loops, or wrap around the head (such as gaiter style masks)
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape

For cloth face coverings, the following would not be appropriate: 

  • Fabric that you can see through (not including plastic windows)
  • Hosiery, gauze, hand knit/crochet, and other loosely woven materials
  • Holding a towel, t-shirt, or other non-secured item over your face

Any face covering with an exhalation valve does not meet the standards of this policy as they allow particles to exhaust from the wearer.

Disposable filtering facepiece respirators, such as KN95 and N95s are appropriate for those who are part of a respiratory protection program through their workplace.

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 a public space?
What is 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 should provide face coverings to faculty and staff? To students? To visitors or contractors?
Who should provide face coverings to faculty and staff? To students? To visitors or 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.

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.

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.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?
Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?

No, only face masks may be worn on campus. Recent research findings released showed face shields are relatively ineffective in reducing droplets in the air compared to face masks.  As a result, face shields will not be permitted on Texas A&M campuses in lieu of face masks except for instructors who are adequately distanced from students in the classroom. For instructors teaching in the classroom, go here.

How long will this policy be in effect?
How long will this policy be in effect?

The policy is continually under review as more information regarding the current pandemic is made available. This policy will remain in effect until it is safer to do so.

Student & Campus Life
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.

How many people should be in a university vehicle?
How many people should be in a university vehicle?

There is a wide variety of university vehicles. The number of people in the vehicle during the COVID-19 pandemic should be limited to no more than 50% of the maximum vehicle occupancy. All those in the vehicle must wear their face coverings. The ventilation system must be turned on but not be placed into recirculation mode at any time. When possible, it is best practice to leave two windows slightly open to allow for more fresh air flow.

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.

Can students or employees be directed to vacate university property by a supervisor if they refuse to wear a face covering?
Can students 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.

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 (Dr. Shawn Gibbs, chair; 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. 

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.

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.

Faculty & Staff Guidance
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 (Dr. Shawn Gibbs, chair; 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. 

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.

I have a private office, so do I need to wear a face covering when other people are in my office?
I have a private office, so do I need to wear a face covering when other people are in my office?

While, in your private office area you are not required to wear a face covering when alone. However, when other people join you then all are to wear a face covering.

What is a private office?
What is a private office?

A private office is usually an office with walls and a door and only one occupant. It could also be a discrete space that is clearly defined, delineated, and apparent with either cubicle walls or partitions where at least 6 feet of physical distance from another person can be maintained at all times and is occupied and accessed by only 1 person per day and cleaned prior to another person entering the area. However, when other people join you then all should wear a face covering.

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

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.

I'm lecturing in the spring. Instead of wearing a face covering, can I wear a face shield?
I'm lecturing in the spring. Instead of wearing a face covering, can I wear a face shield?

If you can maintain at least 6 feet physical distance from the nearest member of your class and you have a plexiglass barrier between you and the class, then you may wear a face shield instead of a face covering while you are lecturing.  You should still wear a face covering when entering and exiting the classroom since recent research showed face shields are relatively ineffective in reducing droplets in the air compared to face masks.   

Working on Campus
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.

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 (Dr. Shawn Gibbs, chair;  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. 

I have a private office, so do I need to wear a face covering when other people are in my office?
I have a private office, so do I need to wear a face covering when other people are in my office?

While, in your private office area you are not required to wear a face covering when alone. However, when other people join you then all are to wear a face covering.

What is a private office?
What is a private office?

A private office is usually an office with walls and a door and only one occupant. It could also be a discrete space that is clearly defined, delineated, and apparent with either cubicle walls or partitions where at least 6 feet of physical distance from another person can be maintained at all times and is occupied and accessed by only 1 person per day and cleaned prior to another person entering the area. However, when other people join you then all should wear a face covering.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How many people should be in a university vehicle?
How many people should be in a university vehicle?

There is a wide variety of university vehicles. The number of people in the vehicle during the COVID-19 pandemic should be limited to no more than 50% of the maximum vehicle occupancy. All those in the vehicle must wear their face coverings. The ventilation system must be turned on but not be placed into recirculation mode at any time. When possible, it is best practice to leave two windows slightly open to allow for more fresh air flow.

Exemptions
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.

Can a student request an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering?
Can a student request an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering?

Student requests for exemptions based on a a pre-existing medical condition or religious concern should contact the Office of the Dean of Student Life in College Station. As this is a public health crisis, exemptions on religious basis are likely only to be accommodated through face shields or on-line classes.  If these accommodations would not be deemed appropriate by the requester, the exemption request will be forwarded to the Office of Risk, Ethics, and Compliance, who will handle the interactive process.

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 and/or any other location on Texas A&M property that requires the wearing of a face covering. If consistent with the need for accommodation, a face shield should be worn instead of a face covering.

How will disability offices make determinations for exemptions?
How will disability offices make determinations for exemptions?

Disability offices will use their existing process to review exemption requests through an interactive process with students. Sources of information used for determining a disability and/or accommodation may include a student’s self-report, direct observation and interaction with the student, and/or documentation from qualified evaluators or professionals.

Who reviews exemption requests for employees and visitors based on a disability or religious concern?
Who reviews exemption requests for employees and visitors based on a 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. Accommodations will be limited to the wearing of a face-shield if approved.

Employee and visitor requests for exemptions based on a religious concern should contact Employee Relations in the Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness. In limited instances the accommodation that will be made available is the wearing of a face shield.

If these accommodations would not be deemed appropriate by the requester, the Office of Risk, Ethics, and Compliance will handle the interactive process.

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?
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 students or employees be directed to vacate university property by a supervisor if they refuse to wear a face covering?
Can students 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.

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