FAQs: Face covering requirements

July 22, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Q: Why are masks so important? 

A: Research shows that transmission of COVID-19 is greatly reduced and lives are saved when all individuals wear face coverings in public. Because many cases of COVID-19 are mild or asymptomatic and COVID-19 can be transmitted days before an individual with the virus becomes symptomatic, the community is best protected when all individuals mask up. It is the shared responsibility of the entire U-M community to protect not only their own health but the health of those who are most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19.

Wearing a mask or face covering is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19. Last week, Brian Uridge, director of security at Michigan Medicine, put together a special message for faculty, staff and learners. This video discusses the organization’s policies and the need to wear face coverings on buses and inside buildings. 

Q: How are Michigan Medicine employees impacted by the new U-M face covering policy?

A: The University of Michigan Face Covering Policy for COVID-19 applies to all U-M faculty, staff, learners and visitors, including Michigan Medicine. This policy makes it a requirement to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose anywhere on and within all U-M properties and locations, including inside buildings, outdoors and on U-M transportation.  It is difficult to maintain distance from groups even while outdoors, so face coverings outdoors will help slow the spread of the virus.

The biggest change for Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and learners is that a mask must be worn outside, while walking to and from U-M buildings and before approaching the entrance screening points. A new mask can still be provided at these entrances as needed, but staff should come with a mask already on. 

Q: What other masking policies apply to Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and learners?

A: Mask policies for Michigan Medicine vary depending on the work environment. For faculty, staff and learners providing care to COVID-19 positive or PUI patients, additional mask requirements are detailed in the COVID-19 Guidelines for Patient Care from Infection Prevention and Epidemiology (IPE). 

There are different requirements for clinical vs. non-clinical areas. General guidelines can be found in the COVID-19 Universal Masking for Employees document. Detailed guidelines for clinical and non-clinical areas can be found on the Infection Prevention & Epidemiology (IPE) website.

These guidelines are being updated as regulation and policy changes evolve. Please be sure to check the guidelines often for the most current information.

Q: Do staff in closed rooms (e.g., locker and staff rooms) or personal offices need to wear masks at all times?

A: Employees working in private individual offices with the door closed can remove their mask. Face coverings must be worn at all times in all shared settings.  This includes shared office settings, even if individuals are separated by at least 6 feet of distance, as well as locker rooms and staff/team workrooms.   

Q: How will the new U-M face covering policy be applied to patients and visitors?

A: The new policy also applies to patients and visitors. Ambulatory patients and those with scheduled procedures are notified of masking requirements through the uofmhealth.org website and through appointment reminder calls, texts and portal messages. Masks can be provided at the entrance if necessary, but patients and visitors should come with a mask already on.

Hospital inpatients are tested for COVID-19, and employees are wearing PPE for adequate protection. Therefore, inpatients are not expected to wear masks when faculty and staff enter their rooms. Patients are, however, asked to wear masks when leaving their rooms if they are medically able to tolerate.

Q: Are patients and visitors permitted to wear face shields in place of masks?

A: No, face shields do not offer the same protection. They do not fit the nose and mouth snugly to contain the wearer’s germs and, therefore, do not provide as much protection as masks.

Q: Are there exceptions where face coverings are not required?

A: Yes. Face coverings are not required if you are:

  • Indoors, in a single enclosed private office with the door closed
  • Eating or drinking but still maintaining social distance (at least six feet of physical separation between yourself and others)
  • Alone in a private motor vehicle or utility vehicle used for University business
  • A child younger than five years old, though children two years old and older are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Children under the age of two should not wear a mask.
  • Granted a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For information on requesting such accommodations, please contact the Office for Institutional Equity.
  • Communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication; in such circumstances, alternatives such as clear face coverings and other accommodations also will be explored
  • Giving a speech for broadcast or an audience while maintaining physical distance of at least six feet from others
  • Receiving a service for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service

Additional exceptions are listed in the campus-wide policy. If you have questions or feel other exceptions apply to you, please discuss with your direct supervisor.