Mask Requirements and Guidance

Updated: September 26, 2022

The following information pertains to Yale University Mask Requirements and Guidance. Please see Yale University’s Health Guidelines for more university requirements and information.

When Masks are Required

Masking will be optional in most spaces on campus and on university transit vehicles, with certain exceptions noted below.

While classroom masking will be optional in most cases, given the wide range of classroom settings and configurations, individual instructors are permitted to continue to require masking in their own classrooms or instructional spaces.

In addition, hosts of certain events or gatherings may require masks for attendees. Instructors and hosts may consult the COVID-19 Review Team for advice about masking.

Masking will also continue to be required when:

  • visiting health care settings, such as Yale Health and Yale Medicine clinics; 
  • experiencing symptoms;
  • testing positive for COVID-19 and subject to COVID-19 isolation protocols;
  • identified as a close contact of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19;
  • required by state or local agencies.

As always, university health and safety policies, including mask requirements, may be modified if public health conditions change.

It is important to remember that high-quality masks, such as those made available through Yale, provide a benefit for the wearer even if other people around them are not wearing masks. Wearing a mask in public may be a good idea, especially when crowds are large, when the adequacy of ventilation is uncertain, or if you are at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19. It is also prudent to be aware of the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels, not only in New Haven County, but also at your destinations when you make travel plans.

Masking is welcome anywhere on campus, for any reason, and the university will continue to make high-quality masks available to its community members.

Approved High-Quality Masks on Campus

High-quality masks provide good filtration and fit snugly over the wearer’s chin, on the sides of the face, and over the nose and mouth. Most cloth masks have inferior filtration compared to masks approved and available at Yale (see below), which offer good source control and infection prevention from respiratory viruses for the wearers. Therefore, cloth masks may not be worn on campus, except as over-masks when double-masking.

Approved high-quality masks include:

  • masks available from the university (see below).
  • masks obtained from a reliable vendor that provide filtration equivalent to the ASTM1 or ASTM2 masks provided by the university (“ASTM” should be clearly indicated on the mask packaging).
  • Contact ehs@yale.edu if you have any questions about masks adequacy.

High-Quality Masks Available from Yale University

The high-quality masks available from the university include ASTM-rated masks, as well as KN95 and N95 respirators.

ASTM masks meets ASTM F3502 industrial standard, while cloth masks and many 3-ply non-woven masks are not tested to such a standard. ASTM masks offer very good filtration, provide good infection control, and are easy to wear for extended periods of time (i.e., for an entire day).

KN95 masks and N95 respirators offer very good filtration, fit tightly to your face, and provide enhanced infection control. However, they are more difficult to wear for extended periods of time. If you have trouble breathing while wearing a higher-level mask, an ASTM mask is a good option. See N95 Respirator Guidance for more information.

How to Acquire Yale-Approved High-Quality Masks

  • ASTM masks are available for free through the YPPS site by clicking the “PPE Supply Replenishment” link. (VPN is required.)
  • While Yale is now distributing ASTM masks and currently allowing for expanded approvals for the voluntary use of N95 respirators under certain conditions, KN95 masks are also available for you to purchase through SciQuest by using a departmental Chart of Account (COA).
  • Coordinate departmental orders with your Lead Administrator.
  • See posted instructions for additional information

Laboratories

For individuals who are required or who choose to wear a mask while working in Yale non-clinical laboratories, ASTM masks are provided by the university. KN95s also offer good filtration and can be used in non-clinical laboratories as a face covering (mask), except when using pyrophoric materials. Flame resistant masks are also available for those whose work involves pyrophoric materials. ASTM and KN95 masks are available through the YPPS site by clicking the “PPE Supply Replenishment” link. (VPN is required.)

Masks worn in the laboratory must be discarded whenever leaving the laboratory and at the end of the day, or if damaged or contaminated. When removing your mask, only touch the loops that go around your ear.

Yale’s Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Laboratories Procedure requires every person in a laboratory to wear eye protection. Gloves and a lab coat are required when handling hazardous materials.

Clinical Areas

Yale Medicine and Yale Health have documented clinical SOPs for specific masking requirements. If you also work in a clinical area, please ensure that you follow all appropriate SOPs. If you have any questions, speak with your immediate supervisor.

Contact EHS if you have any questions about masks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of mask should I wear while on campus?

Yale is now distributing ASTM masks, which have very good filtration and are very helpful in reducing your risk of infection. These are the same masks that healthcare workers have used for routine protection since the pandemic’s start. At this time, a cloth mask may not be worn, except as an over-mask when double-masking. Most cloth masks have inferior filtration compared to the 3-ply or ASTM masks supplied by Yale.

How can I get an ASTM mask?

ASTM masks are available through the YPPS site by clicking the “PPE Supply Replenishment” link. (VPN is required.) Coordinate departmental orders with your Lead Administrator.

How can I tell the difference between an ASTM and a surgical mask?

ASTM masks have ear loops and look identical to the 3-ply masks. Boxes of ASTM masks are marked either ASTM Level 1 or ASTM Level 2.

When do I need to replace my mask?

ASTM, KN95 masks, and N95 respirators for voluntary use are disposable, but can be used generally for up to one week or until they become damaged, soiled, or wet. Masks worn in the laboratory should be disposed of when leaving the lab and at the end of the day, or if damaged or contaminated.

How do I wear my mask properly?

When wearing masks, follow these practices:

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on and removing the mask.
  • Your mouth and nose should be fully covered.
  • Tie or secure the face covering to prevent slipping.
  • Remove and replace mask if dirty, damaged or contaminated,
  • If you have difficulty breathing when wearing a mask, it should be removed and replaced with a different mask.

How do I safely remove my mask?

Handle by the ties or ear loops only. Remove from your face and fold the outside corners together. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing. Clean your hands after removing and store in a clean paper bag. Face masks can be generally worn for up to one week and disposed of when soiled or damaged.

I am vaccinated, but my immune system may be weakened (e.g., due to illnesses or medication). What do you recommend?

If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may not have the full protection of vaccination and boosters. Even if vaccinated and boosted, you should continue to wear a mask and take all precautions recommended by your healthcare provider.

If I am wearing a mask and others are not, and we are in a room together, does this protect me from infection?

Yale is distributing ASTM Level 1 and Level 2 masks, which offer very good filtration and are very helpful in reducing your chance of infection with respiratory viruses. An individual may also choose to request a KN95 or an N95 respirator for voluntary use, which offer a tight fit and enhanced protection for the wearer from infection when worn consistently, even if others are not masking. The fit is important. ASTM masks are available through the YPPS site by clicking the “PPE Supply Replenishment” link. (VPN is required.) Coordinate departmental orders with your Lead Administrator. Requests for KN95 and N95 respirators should be made through the COVID Stockroom in SciQuest (instructions).

Can I get an N95 mask?

See N95 Respirator Guidance for more information.

What about KN95 masks?

“KN95” is a Chinese designation for masks with good filtration. These typically have ear loops, which may prevent a good (e.g. tight to the face) fit for many people. When they do fit tightly, they filter well, but are difficult to breathe through for any length of time. Individuals should not use a KN95 if breathing is difficult while wearing the mask.

While Yale is now distributing ASTM masks and currently allowing for expanded approvals for the voluntary use of N95 Respirators under certain conditions, KN95 masks are also available for you to purchase through SciQuest by using a departmental Chart of Account (COA).

The quality of masks provided by the university, through your residential college, school, or business office, has been evaluated by Environmental Health and Safety. However, many masks ordered through commercial venues vary in quality, even when they are labeled with familiar terms such as “KN95.” Recent media posts include guidelines that may help you avoid counterfeit masks and select masks that provide better protection.

A KN95 mask is not a substitute for an N95 respirator and cannot be worn for medical use if N95s are required. Do not double mask if you are wearing a KN95.

If you have questions, please submit them to ehs@yale.edu.

What about KF94 and other masks?

KF94 is a Korean designation for masks with good filtration. They are similar to KN95 and meet similar standards.

FFP2 is a European standard certifying filtration of >94% particulates. These are also considered to be similar to KN95, KF94, and other masks.

The quality of masks provided by the university, through your residential college, school, or business office, has been evaluated by Environmental Health and Safety. However, many masks ordered through commercial venues vary in quality, even when they are labeled with familiar terms such as “KN95.” Recent media posts include guidelines that may help you avoid counterfeit masks and select masks that provide better protection.

What should I do if the disposable 3-ply mask provided is too large for my face?

The University has obtained samples of smaller face masks that can be requested through the YPPS ordering site. The guidance also describes several strategies for improving the fit and function of your mask including tucking ear loops, as demonstrated in this video.

If concerns remain after trying the smaller face mask, contact ehs@yale.edu for additional options.

What options exist for the deaf and hard of hearing?

Yale offers two types of protection for the deaf and hard of hearing: clear face masks and face shields.

Clear face masks are available through the YPPS site by clicking the “PPE Supply Replenishment” link. (VPN is required.)

Face shields are available via the COVID Stockroom in SciQuest.

Can I buy my own mask?

You are not required to use the masks provided by Yale, but your mask should be equivalent to an ASTM Level 1 or Level 2 mask and “ASTM” should be clearly indicated on the mask packaging. Bandanas, scarfs, and gaiters are not allowed as a mask substitute at Yale. At this time, a cloth mask may not be worn, except as an over-mask when double-masking.