Face Covering FAQs - University of Houston
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A face covering is a cloth or other type of material that covers an individual’s mouth and nose. The CDC lists five criteria for “cloth face coverings,” which should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • If not disposable, then be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape.

Wearing a face covering is about protecting others and our community. Those with COVID-19, even those who do not know they have COVID-19, naturally expel droplets contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 when breathing, talking, sneezing, coughing, etc. Wearing a face covering in public shows you care enough to protect others. Additionally, limiting virus spread allows the campus to resume some normal operations, including face-to-face classes without the need to return to full remote instruction.

A public area is any indoor space other than your own private office, residence (including residence hall room or apartment) or personal vehicle. Public areas include lobbies, restrooms, cafeterias, classrooms, hallways, stairwells, common spaces of residence halls, conference rooms, and break rooms. Face coverings should be worn in indoor public areas, even if you are by yourself, or any outdoor space where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to be reliably maintained.

It is the responsibility of the individual to provide their own face covering. However, each department may keep a small amount of disposable face coverings on hand.

There are a variety of cloth face coverings available that you can find online or you can make your own following the CDC guidelines. The CDC recommends at least two layers of tightly knit cotton or the more detailed Olson design. In some cases, the use of a face shield may be appropriate.

No, you do not need to wear a face covering while eating or drinking. After removing your face covering for eating, place the face covering into a bag to help keep the material clean and away from other people and items in your proximity. As soon as your meal is complete, wash your hands or clean your hands with hand sanitizer and replace your face covering, then clean your hands again.

Face coverings are not required when students are in their personal on-campus residence hall rooms/suites or apartments (including private and suite-style bathrooms). You should apply the same thought process that you used while living at home with your family. When you and your roommate first come together at the start of the semester, you should have a discussion around face covering expectations.

Face coverings are required when students and visitors are in residence hall/apartment hallways or while visiting other students’ rooms/apartments. Face coverings are also required while in common areas and community bathrooms, except for while showering or engaging in personal hygiene activities. If residents have sinks in their rooms, then they should perform activities that require touching of the face (brushing teeth, washing face, etc.) at those sinks instead of at the sinks in the community bathrooms.

Yes, face coverings must be worn while riding a bus, even if no one else is on the bus, to decrease respiratory secretions on surfaces within the bus. Contaminated surfaces may still be a source of infection, so it is advisable to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after exiting the bus.

Yes, face coverings must be worn in a shared vehicle, even if no one else is in the vehicle, to decrease respiratory secretions on surfaces within the vehicle. Contaminated surfaces may still be a source of infection after you have left. If the vehicle is assigned to a single employee, and that person is alone in the vehicle, a face covering does not need to be worn.

Face coverings must be worn in any public area, even if you are in your own workspace. However, a workspace is not in a public area when it allows for reliably maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from others and includes a physical barrier between other workspaces. In these areas, a face covering is highly recommended but not required.

Yes. Scientific understanding of COVID-19 is still evolving, and currently it is not known if those who have had the disease can be re-infected and become contagious again.

You should use your own knowledge and select the option that best protects and comforts those around you. A good standard to follow is to wear a face covering in public settings, especially where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Exceptions may be made for those individuals who, due to a specific medical condition, cannot wear a face covering and have received an accommodation. Requests for an exception due a medical condition for students will be handled by the Center for Students with DisABILITIES and requests for employees will be handled by Equal Opportunity Services.

Compliance with the face covering directive will be handled like any other University policy, standard, or guideline. The person refusing or failing to comply with the face covering directive may be subject to disciplinary action.

Instructors of record will ensure compliance with the face covering directive unless an exemption has been granted by the Center for Students with DisABILITIES. First, students will be notified through their courses’ syllabi and provided with standard language of the University’s requirement to wear face coverings. If a student attends the in-person component of a class without a face covering, then the instructor of record should ask the student to put on a face covering with positive coaching or to leave the classroom if the student does not wish to wear a face covering. If the student refuses to comply, the instructor of record can end the class meeting to avoid putting the instructor of record and other students at risk. The instructor of record should report non-compliant students to the Dean of Students by submitting an Incident Reporting Form.

Faculty not complying with the face covering directive will receive positive coaching and, if that fails, disciplinary action will be initiated following the procedures outlined by the Faculty Handbook and the Grievance Procedure.

Staff not complying with the face covering directive will receive positive coaching and, if that fails, disciplinary action will be initiated following the procedures outlined by the policy governing discipline and dismissal of staff employees.

Please contact the faculty or staff member who is supervising the person or the space where the infraction occurred. The department head or building leadership will be in a position to ascertain whether the person has an exemption and, if not, politely direct the person to wear a face covering or vacate the public area.

Yes, unless they have received an exemption or the area or position has been granted a waiver from the face coverings policy. If individuals are not wearing a face covering in a public area, then the first response should be a collegial reminder and an offer of a clean face covering, if one is available. If the individual refuses to wear a face covering, a supervisor (for students this could be a faculty member or a staff member overseeing the area) may direct the individual to leave the public area.

For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, opaque face coverings can be a hindrance to communication either due to lack of ability to read lips or difficulties using a sign language interpreter. Faculty are encouraged to work with Center for Students with DisABILITIES to determine appropriate accommodations (e.g., wearing a face shield or a transparent face covering to accommodate students relying on lip reading). For classes using sign language interpreters, interpreters will either wear a face shield or provide remote interpreting.

The policy on Freedom of Expression (SAM 01.D.15) states: “Activities that are unlawful or that materially and substantially disrupt the normal operations of the university’s campus are prohibited.”