Face Coverings

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

  • All university students, faculty, staff and visitors must wear a face covering in university spaces indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
    • People who are NOT fully vaccinated are required to wear a face covering in university spaces indoors, as well as outdoors when they cannot practice social distancing. This applies to all students, faculty, staff and visitors. 
  • A face covering does not have to be worn when eating or drinking.
  • Additionally, face coverings do not need to be worn when alone in an office or room with the door closed, alone in a vehicle—essentially, when you are alone in a private space.
    • A “private room or space” is a room where a person is alone with the door closed. A cubicle is not considered a private space unless it has a door that is closed and cubicle walls of sufficient height that are above full head height. If the occupant’s head will extend beyond the top of the cubical, a face covering must be worn. Regardless of the presence of a door or cubicle wall height, a face covering is not required in one’s office or cubicle while eating or drinking, but the occupant must be seated.
    • For students living in University Housing, Private Certified Housing or Greek Housing: While in their assigned room/apartment, roommates (solo or together) do not need to wear face coverings, but are required to put on face coverings before leaving their private space.

What does the university consider a face covering?

There are a number of options for satisfying the university’s requirement for wearing a face covering. It is recommended that individuals wear a cloth face mask when possible to minimize the spread of droplets. There are other acceptable forms of face coverings detailed below.

Please note that a face shield is not considered a face covering. Face shields are discussed in another section.

Here are some examples of acceptable face coverings to wear when inside university facilities or anywhere on campus.

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 some of the best protection against droplet spread. The pictured masks include a cloth mask that hooks over the ears and one mask that can hang around the neck when not being worn.

Disposable face masks

A disposable face mask

Disposable face masks can still provide excellent coverage against droplet spread, but they may not hold up to repeated wear or washing.

Bandanas and neck gaiters

A bandana
A neck gaiter

While not providing the same coverage as a cloth mask, other cloth face covering options such as bandanas and neck gaiters are acceptable face coverings to wear inside university facilities. Cloth masks provide more protection than bandanas and neck gaiters, but wearing any face covering is better than wearing none.

N95 masks

A N95 mask without a ventilator
A N95 mask with a ventilator

N95 masks provide medical-grade protection and are in limited supply. They need to reach health care workers and first responders who cannot physically distance themselves from symptomatic individuals. Please do not stockpile N95 masks.

Finally, as shown in the second picture above, some N95 masks come with vents that allow for easier breathing. Please note that the vent that makes it easier to breathe is at the same time making it easier for droplets to get past your mask.

What is a 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 as detailed below.

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.”

When can I use a face shield instead of a face covering? 

A face shield is different than a face covering. 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.

It is only acceptable to temporarily use a face shield instead of a face covering, and only in these circumstances:

  • Use of a face shield is necessary to complete the task. This could be a counseling session interview where facial expressions are imperative or where a person’s lips must be visible in order for them to be read. As soon as the task is over, a face covering should be used.
  • Instructors are permitted to wear a face shield during lecture as long as they are able to maintain six feet of distance from all others in the room during the entire lecture. So this means:
    • Instructors should wear a face covering when they enter the facility and when they enter their classroom.
    • Once they reach the podium/lecture space in the classroom, they are permitted to replace their face covering with a face shield.
    • They must continue to maintain six feet of distance for the entire time they are wearing face shields.
    • They should then replace the face shield with a face covering at the end of class before they leave the classroom.
  • Clear face coverings (available through Central Stores) are preferred to face shields.

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.