COVID-19 Face Covering Guidance

The following recommendations are subject to change based on additional information, city/county health ordinances and University guidelines.

Last Updated: August 18, 2020

As a general rule, face coverings must be used at all times on UC Berkeley property, whether indoors or outdoors, to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help prevent asymptomatic carriers from unknowingly transmitting it to others. Keep in mind partitions do not mean you are working alone. Cloth face coverings are a community health measure and they do not eliminate the need for physical distancing practices. This is in effect until the city and/or campus updates this requirement.

If you wish to view the City of Berkeley order regarding masks, please click here

 

When to Wear a Face Covering

  • Any public spaces on campus (outdoors, elevators, hallways, restrooms)
  • Any space where you can not guarantee you are alone (this includes all labs shared by different research groups)
  • Lab, office, or other spaces with 2 or more people present (see Face Covering Recommendations for Labs)
  • Large office environments with partitions
  • Core facilities (shared instruments, autoclaves etc.)

NOTE: If you are alone in a lab room (not shared with a different research group) or office, you may remove your face covering but it should be readily accessible. If your space connects to other rooms or hallways, please ensure the door is closed.

 

Acceptable Types of Face Coverings

Face coverings help protect others from the coronavirus by limiting the spread of germs from exhaled breath. Acceptable types of face coverings include the following: 

screenshot-facecover.PNG.png

Download Face Covering Poster

NOTE: Cloth face coverings are a community health measure and are NOT personal protective equipment (PPE). For information on PPE, please visit EH&S PPE webpage.

 

Wearing Face Shields 

While a plastic face shield is an excellent addition to one's personal protective equipment, it is NOT a substitute for a face mask or covering. Please review the following recommendations about face shields from the CDC’s Guidance on Wearing Masks.

  • A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer. There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control. Therefore, CDC does not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for masks
  • However, wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people for example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired. Here are some considerations for individuals who must wear a face shield instead of a mask:
    • Although evidence on face shields is limited, the available data suggest that the following face shields may provide better source control than others:
      • Face shields that wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin.
      • Hooded face shields.
    • Face shield wearers should wash their hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when removing it.
    • Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use and disposed of according to manufacturer instructions.
    • Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use according to manufacturer instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions.

Cloth Face Coverings Should

  • Cover your nose and mouth Include multiple layers of fabric (frequently cotton)
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Fit snugly against the side of the face
  • Allow for breathing without restriction



Source: CDC Wearing Face Coverings

 

 

How to Properly Wear Face Coverings

 

 

Very Few are Exempt

A face covering is not required by the City of Berkeley Order to be worn by a particular individual if the person can show either:

  • A medical professional has advised that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to the person wearing the mask for health-related reasons.
  • Wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
    • Submit lab-related workplace reviews and exemption requests by filling out this form.
    • At this time, researchers handling pyrophorics may remove their face covering if it impedes safe use while they actively work with the material. Continue to maintain proper distancing while not working alone. They should immediately resume wearing their face covering once active work is complete.

 

Cloth Face Covering Recommendations for Labs

Please remember the handling of certain chemicals (e.g. pyrophorics) are prohibited when working alone. Working alone restrictions are outlined in the lab’s Standard Operating Procedures. Please contact ucbcho@berkeley.edu for any questions.

 

Risk of contamination during the course of research

Cloth face covers are not an effective means of protecting the wearer from fugitive vapors so these are unlikely to accumulate in the mask during the course of research. If the procedure/research being performed was evaluated and found that the person’s face or their breathable space was not being chemically contaminated before COVID-19, then a cloth face covering would not be contaminated if worn during research.

 

Things to Consider:

  • Main cause of contamination will most likely be the result of adjusting the cloth face covering with dirty hands or contaminated gloves. Only adjust the face covering with clean hands.
  • When removing a face covering, remove gloves first and make sure hands are clean before touching the face covering and pulling the strap away from the ear or untie the straps.
  • Handle cloth face coverings as you would any other piece of clothing (e.g. pants).
  • Launder masks at home with warm water and soap.
  • Have a back-up cloth face cover available in case the primary face covering becomes dirty. If you remain concerned about contamination of your face covering, your process should be reviewed by EH&S and proper controls put in place. Please contact ucbcho@berkeley.edu.

 

Suitability with high hazard materials

If the procedure/research being performed was evaluated and found that the person’s face or their breathable space was not being chemically contaminated before COVID-19, then a cloth face covering should also not be exposed if worn during research. Clothing worn under PPE (e.g. lab coats) should not be made of synthetic fibers (e.g. polyester, nylon, spandex) when working with chemicals  such as pyrophorics or other reactives. Cloth made from synthetic fiber melts and burns more readily than cloth made from natural fiber (e.g. cotton). The same is recommended for cloth face coverings.

If a researcher has concerns regarding the use of chemicals that are reactive or highly flammable while wearing a cloth face covering, a risk assessment should be performed for the entire process. The hierarchy of controls should be implemented to control the risk. Face covering exemptions will be evaluated by EH&S on a case-by-case basis.

Please submit requests for face covering exemption by filling out this form.

Recommendations:

  • Wear a cotton only face covering (such as the ones provided by the university).

    • Avoid wearing synthetic coverings when working with pyrophorics or flammable materials near open flames.
  • Remember to work with the fume hood sash at a low, comfortable level.
    • If your glass has panels that slide side to side, these should be closed in front of you.
  • Be careful of impeding safe use (e.g. fogging of safety glasses)
    • Consider treating glasses with antifogging solution.
    • Make sure masks are properly fitted; refer to CDC Guidelines here.
    • Consider substituting for a less reactive or flammable material until face coverings are no longer required.
  • If concern for face covering material still exists, consider wearing a face shield over the face covering. Safety glasses must still be worn with the face shield.
  • FR masks may be used if researchers prefer this material for a face covering (to avoid community spread of COVID-19) when handling pyrophorics or flammable materials near an open flame. Please remember, in this context, the face covering is not PPE.
  • At this time, researchers handling pyrophorics may remove their face covering if it impedes safe use while they actively work with the material. They should immediately resume wearing their face covering once active work is complete.
    • Continue to maintain proper distancing while not working alone.
    • Examples: addition to a reaction, quenching material

 

Face Coverings - Options for Work in Labs

Cloth face coverings are a community health measure and are NOT personal protective equipment (PPE). For information on PPE, please visit EH&S PPE webpage.

 

Type

Disposable Mask (not surgical)
 

University-Issued Cloth Covering

Personal Cloth Covering
 

Flame Resistant Face Covering

Description

Single use, synthetic material 

Reuseable, 100% cotton

Reuseable, Recommended to be cotton

Reusable, Nomex or other FR material

Intended Use

To be used if cloth face coverings are not available. If possible, avoid work with reactive or flammable chemicals.

Suitable for work
in lab

Suitable for work in lab

Can be worn when handling pyrophorics or flammables near an open flame

 

Campus Distribution of Face Coverings

The University will supply each employee with 2 cotton reusable face coverings. Please refer to the Cloth Face Coverings Distribution Schedule.