While we all know that we need to wear face coverings in all Emerson spaces except for our own residence hall room (for those who live on campus), what actually counts as an acceptable face covering? And what’s the latest guidance about what type of face coverings are effective in reducing the potential for transmission of COVID-19?
There is a lot of information — articles, studies, interpretations, and opinions — coming out rapidly about the novel coronavirus and face coverings. Emerson is following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in developing our protocols and policies, and we recommend you check out the CDC COVID-19 site if you have any questions.
Specifics About Face Coverings
The CDC emphasizes that face covers are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Wearing one is about protecting yourself, and even more, about protecting others.
Since the primary transmission of COVID-19 happens through respiratory droplets expelled from the mouth, proper face covers are critical.
Your face cover MUST be able to:
- Reach above your nose and below your chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face
- Completely cover your mouth and nose
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Include multiple layers of fabric (at least 2-ply)
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
- Block sunlight — if you can see sunlight when you look through your face cover, droplets may get in and out
- Be worn correctly. See CDC recommendations.
You do not need to buy your face covers. The CDC has information on how to make your own. (We know how crafty many Emersonians are!)
ICYMI, check out the TikTok from Bill Nye the Science Guy where he demonstrates why you need to wear a face cover!
Masks with Exhalation Valves or Vents
The purpose of face covers is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, the CDC does not recommend using masks if they have an exhalation valve or vent.
A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer. There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control. Therefore, CDC does not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for face covers.
When at Emerson, a face shield may be worn in addition to a cloth face cover, but not instead of a cloth face cover. If a reusable face shield is worn along with a face cover, it should be cleaned and disinfected after each use, according to manufacturer instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions.
Face Covers with Clear Fronts
Cloth face covers with clear fronts can make it easier for some people to understand speakers. Emerson community members who wish to wear clear-fronted cloth face coverings may certainly do so, provided that the face cover meets all other requirements. Students who wish to request that their faculty members wear a cloth face cover with a clear front should contact Student Accessibility Services at 617-824-8592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emerson will provide two cloth face coverings to each student. For residential students, we will place them in your room before arrival. For off-campus students (graduate and undergraduate), please look for emailed information about distribution dates and times from Off-Campus Student Services. As a reminder, please plan to bring 7-10 cloth face coverings with you so that you can have a clean one for each day.
Take good care,
Vice President & Dean of Campus Life