Face Coverings

Western’s existing indoor facial covering and physical distancing requirements remain in effect. Wearing a face covering helps protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms. There are some exceptions to this mandate, which includes communicating with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Students, employees, and campus visitors must wear cloth face coverings when inside any campus building or university vehicle. Current Exceptions to this rule include when an individual is in an office or a vehicle by themselves or specific athletics practices or competitions that allow unmasked activity. When outdoors on campus, cloth face coverings must be worn anytime safe social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

Employers must provide cloth face coverings to their employees unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection.  Departments can order face coverings through the Western Marketplace and the cost of face coverings will be borne by the requesting department.  Employees may choose to wear their own face coverings at work, provided it meets the requirements discussed below. 

Supervisors will need to ensure their employees always have a face covering with them because keeping at least a 6-foot distance may not always be possible.  This includes common areas, such as break rooms, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. 

For departments who are considering a request to increase their presence on campus, the inclusion of face coverings for employee usage will be a required component of approved departmental safety plans.

To wear your face covering correctly, you must:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face

Make sure you can breathe easily.

It’s important to remember that the use of cloth face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing requirements of at least 6 feet and other prevention measures such as washing hands frequently and staying home when sick. 

Please also note that Western's Disability Access Center (DAC) can assist with requests for Safe and Clear masks that facilitate communication for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Reach out to the DAC's Gretchen Rumsey-Richardson at rumseyg@wwu.edu if you would like to try one of these masks.

When we combine everyday protective measures, we do our part in protecting our community and minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19 at Western. 

For more information regarding cloth face coverings and masks, please review:

A drawing of a person wearing a blue mask

Face Mask FAQs

The only time a face covering is not needed is when you’re working or spending time alone in an office or vehicle. 

* Please note that a higher level of respiratory protection than a cloth face covering may be needed due to one’s job hazard assessment.  This includes N95’s or other respirators.  Contact your supervisor if you have questions. 

A cloth face covering is not needed while working or spending time outdoors (e.g., walking, exercising) when a 6-foot distance from other people can be maintained.

Yes! In accordance with state policy, Western will be providing every employee with two cloth face coverings to be used when on campus. They can be ordered through the Western Marketplace and the cost of the face coverings will be borne by the requesting department.

Please feel free to use your own cloth face coverings if you wish. Please see “How should cloth face coverings be worn?” in this FAQ section for specifics on what your cloth mask should be like.

No. Some individuals may not be able to wear a cloth face covering, including those with physical disabilities that prevent wearing a mask safely, or those who are deaf and use facial movements to help communicate.

  • Yes. Wearing a cloth face covering can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.
  • Cloth face coverings can help protect others by containing respiratory droplets when the wearer coughs, sneezes, or speaks.
  • Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for existing guidance to maintain 6-feet of physical distance and to practice good hygiene.
  • Please note that N-95-type masks that have valves, while protective to the wearer, are not protective to those around them, and are not recommended.

Medical/procedure (N95 or non-N95) masks are made from non-cloth material and are to be disposed of after one use, and may be used by employees doing work to support critical operations.  These employees must perform a risk assessment and identify medical/procedure masks as part of their required personal protective equipment (PPE). Please note that N-95 masks that have valves, while protective to the wearer, are not protective to those around them, and are not recommended. A cloth face covering is not considered PPE, but it may protect persons nearby from the wearer’s respiratory droplets. These coverings are made from a variety of cloth materials and are reusable. Homemade cloth face coverings, especially if well-made and fit snugly, can help prevent the spread of infection to others. Here is additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the types of masks that offer protection against disease transmission.

Governor Inslee’s “Safe Start” requirements for workplaces indicate cloth face coverings should be worn by all WWU staff, students, and faculty when:

  • Working in areas where other people are present, and
  • There is no potential exposure to hazardous materials. If staff or students are working in an area where work with hazardous materials is taking place (e.g., hazardous chemical use, work with biohazards), a surgical mask and/or other appropriate PPE should be worn.

  • In order to be effective, cloth face coverings must:
    • 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 loss of fit.

  • Cloth face coverings should be changed when moist and washed and dried after each use where possible.  Remember – any cloth face covering that has been worn may be contaminated.
  • Cloth face coverings must also be changed and laundered whenever potentially contaminated.  This is to prevent exposure for the individual wearing it.

  1. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer prior to putting on the cloth face covering.
  2. Identify the “inside” of the cloth face covering. This side faces your mouth.  The noseband should be on the top.
  3. With the inside of the cloth face covering facing in and the noseband on the top, place the loops around the ears or tie the straps at the neck and at the crown of your head.
  4. Adjust the top and bottom of the cloth face covering.  The cloth face covering should extend above your nose, and the bottom should extend below your chin.
  5. Pinch or press the noseband so that it conforms to your nose bridge.
  6. Do not touch the cloth face covering if possible while wearing it. If you do touch it, wash your hands immediately.
  7. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while wearing the cloth face covering.
  8. Remove the cloth face covering from the face carefully, touching only the bands and not the outside surface. The outside surface should not come in contact with your face.  Avoid pulling the cloth face covering up over your forehead or down over your chin.
  9. Launder the cloth face covering when soiled or wet.
  10. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer after taking the cloth face covering off.

If you would like to make your own face covering, please follow CDC guidance on Homemade Cloth Face Coverings: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-make-cloth-face-covering.html

If you see anyone on campus wearing full Personal Protective Equipment, they may be escorting a student to or from an isolation or quarantine space. Do NOT approach this group.