UW and SEFS are now implementing new guidelines from the University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) regarding face masks.

SEFS employees, students and faculty should use their personal cloth face coverings if they are physically at a UW worksite, even if just to pick up materials/supplies.

EH&S has revised the UW face mask guidance to reflect requirements of the Governor’s Safe Start. You can read the complete content of the EH&S guidance here.

What has changed?

Cloth face coverings* are now required when indoors and others are present, and outdoors when 6’ of social distancing can’t be maintained. Previously, cloth face coverings were strongly encouraged indoors and outdoors when social distancing couldn’t be maintained.

What does “others are present” mean exactly?

This means if you are in a work area with multiple work stations/desks you must wear a face covering if you and at least one other person are in the area, regardless of distance apart. This includes passing people in stairwells and corridors, no matter how briefly.  ​If you are alone in a private office, you would not need a face covering while in the office.  If you are working alone in a mechanical space, you would not need a face covering. This means that, at a minimum, employees should be wearing face coverings when entering and leaving buildings.

Is the university going to provide cloth face coverings?

In accordance with L&I requirements, each unit will need to issue face coverings for university employees.  A formal policy is in development and is expected to be finalized early next week.  Please stay tuned, but in the meantime, employees should use their personal cloth face coverings if they are physically at a UW worksite, even if just to pick up materials/supplies.

Can employees use their own face covering if they prefer?

Yes, as long as employees use and care for it as ​recommended, and don’t use it when a surgical mask or other respiratory PPE is required.

How do I properly wear a face covering?

Please review the graphics in the EH&S face mask guidance to make sure you are properly wearing your face covering. Consumer Reports (and many other reliable sources) also provide video guidance if you learn better through visual instruction.

What should I do if I cannot tolerate a facemask and need to come to campus or another university worksite?

If, for some reason, you cannot tolerate a facemask, please discuss accommodations with your supervisor to determine whether there is an alternate way to meet this directive (e.g., by using a face shield). If you prefer not to make your accommodation request to your supervisor, please contact your unit’s HR manager, Megan Russell (HR Manager for the College of the Environment, russellm@uw.edu), or the Disability Services Office.

*Medical/procedure masks are still prioritized for healthcare providers. There are shortages of these masks, and it’s critically important that healthcare workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs.