Mask and PPE guidance for U-M Health

January 5, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

As the Omicron variant causes additional surges of COVID-19 and appears to be more infectious, there have been questions around mask use. While the mechanism around the infectiousness of this variant is unclear, masks are a key factor in preventing exposure and infection. Distancing, when possible, and vaccination (including a booster) are the most effective prevention strategies that we have for COVID-19.

Universal masking is still in place across U-M Health, and medical masks that meet health care filtration standards (ASTM-1) are provided at both staff and visitor entrances in clinical settings.

In the past, many have worn cloth masks in non-clinical areas. While a high-quality cloth mask may perform similarly to a medical-grade mask, a wide range of face coverings are available, making standardization necessary. Single-layer cloth masks, neck gaiters and bandanas do not provide optimal protection to help ensure the health and safety of all.

For this reason, cloth masks are discouraged. It is most protective to swap out your cloth mask for a medical mask upon arrival at a clinical facility.

Personal protective equipment

N-95 respirators and eye protection (or PAPR) are required when caring for patients with COVID-19, patients suspected of having COVID-19, and when performing a high-risk aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) for any patient. Medical masks and eye protection are required for all other patient facing activities.

Health care workers may consider a fit-tested N-95 respirator in other patient care circumstances such as when they are in very close contact with a patient who is unable to wear a mask and does not have a recent negative COVID-19 test or when examining the nose/mouth.