Face Coverings

On this page:

When and where do you have to wear a face covering?

  • Face coverings are strongly recommended in classrooms during in-person class time, but not required.
    • University guidance is that face coverings can be recommended but not required, based on current local COVID-19 levels and CDC guidance. This is a very fluid situation and as has been our practice, we will adjust as conditions change. Wearing a face covering remains a personal choice. Please note that students and employees cannot be compelled to wear a face covering.
  • Face coverings are required in healthcare facilities. (COVID-19 testing sites, McKinley Health Center, Counseling Center, etc.)
  • Face coverings are not required in research labs unless non-COVID-related PPE is needed in the research environment. The Illinois Laboratory Safety Guide provides guidance. If a respirator is required, compliance with the Illinois Respiratory Program administered by Safety and Compliance is mandatory. Laboratory Safety or Biological Safety audits of individual laboratories and the specific procedures used in those labs determine if respiratory protection is necessary.
  • There are a number of options below for wearing a face covering if you choose to do so. Face coverings should completely cover the nose and mouth.
  • N95 or KN95 offers the best protection against all strains of COVID-19.
  • Before wearing an N95, KN95 or a Level 3 surgical mask, all university faculty, staff and students should review these training materials to maximize your safety.

N95 and KN95 masks

A N95 mask without a ventilator
kn95 face covering

N95 and KN95 masks provide medical-grade protection and offer the best protection against all strains of COVID-19.

Level 3 surgical masks

A disposable face mask

Level 3 surgical masks provide additional protection compared to other disposable face masks. Disposable face masks provide coverage against droplet spread, but they may not hold up to repeated wear or washing.

Other acceptable face coverings

Cloth face masks

A cloth mask that hooks over the ears.
A cloth mask designed to hang around the neck when not being worn

Cloth masks provide protection against droplet spread.

Face shield

A face shield

A face shield, often made of plastic, usually fits over the individual’s head, although some are neck-mounted.

A face shield is not an adequate substitute for a face covering. Face shields should only be used as an additional layer of protection or used temporarily. If using a forehead-mounted clear shield, the shield should extend from ear-to-ear and to the bottom of the speaker’s chin when their mouth is open. For a neck-mounted shield, it should be angled so that no droplets can escape around the sides or top of the shield.

A face shield does not fit tight against your face, and therefore it does not provide the same level of protection against droplet spread as a properly worn face covering. As an alternative, units can purchase clear face masks through Central Stores by searching for “smile mask.”

Clear face coverings

A clear face covering is different than a face shield. Clear face coverings fit snugly and have a clear window so the speaker’s lips are visible. 

If you are a student and have an ADA accommodation, you can request a clear face covering through DRES. For more information, please contact Tina Cowsert (tcowsert@illinois.edu).

If you are a faculty or staff member and have an ADA accommodation, you can request a clear face covering from the ADA Division of the Office for Access and Equity by contacting adadivision@illinois.edu.

If you do not have an accommodation, but you would like a clear face covering, units can purchase them through Central Stores by searching for “smile mask.”

Face covering accommodations

Individuals with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from safely wearing a face covering may seek a reasonable accommodation. Students needing an accommodation should contact the division of Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES), and employees (including student employees) needing workplace accommodations should contact the ADA Division of the Office for Access and Equity.

One-on-one meetings and face coverings

Individuals who are not comfortable meeting one-on-one in their offices without face coverings may do the following:

  1. The person requesting the meeting wears a mask. You may consider wearing an N95 mask. According to the CDC, when worn consistently and properly, N95 masks provide the highest level of protection to the wearer.
  2. When setting up the meeting, request that the other individual wears a mask. 
  3. If they decline, you can ask about having the meeting in a larger space.
  4. If they decline, and there is no larger space, you can consider moving your meeting online.