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Requirement to wear face coverings

To slow the spread of COVID-19, students, faculty, and staff must wear face coverings on campus.

Updated: January 27, 2021

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Students, faculty, and staff are required to wear face coverings.
  • Face coverings are required in many areas, including classrooms.
  • Face coverings combined with social distancing are crucial to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Face coverings must be worn on campus.

Multiple studies have shown that use of face coverings, combined with social distancing, substantially limits the spread of COVID-19. By wearing a face covering and following social distancing guidance, you will:

  • Protect yourself and others, including those who are at high risk for serious illness
  • Reduce your chances of having to self-isolate because of close contact with a person with COVID-19
  • Help keep the campus open and classes meeting in person by minimizing the number of close contacts

The on-campus experience depends on students, faculty, and staff following health and safety measures, and among the most important of those measures are social distancing and use of face coverings. Students, faculty, and staff must wear a face covering—a cloth face mask, bandanna, medical mask, or gaiter—on campus and follow social distancing guidance.

The university has provided face coverings for students and employees.

Where to wear a face covering

  • In classrooms
  • In elevators
  • Outdoors except in situations where you are certain you can stay at least six feet from others in all directions at all times
  • Indoors except in isolated spaces such as your private office or room or nonacademic spaces specifically set up for appropriate social distancing where you are certain to maintain at least six feet of physical distance from others in all directions at all times
  • On public transportation such as the T and while with passengers in university vehicles, as noted in the vehicle use guidelines
  • In any indoor or outdoor situation in which you cannot stay at least six feet from other people at all times or do not have control over someone entering into your six-foot vicinity

To discuss accommodations to the face covering requirement due to a medical condition, students should contact Student Disability Services, and employees and visitors should contact the Office of Equity and Diversity.

Best practices

  • Combine face coverings with social distancing.
  • Keep a face covering with you and be ready to wear it when needed.
  • Avoid stigmatizing the wearing of face coverings.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes, especially when you’re not wearing a face covering. Use a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Remember to wash your hands after you remove your face covering.
  • Discard used disposable face coverings in the regular trash.
  • Wash your cloth face coverings regularly.

Review Environmental Health and Safety’s guidelines for the safe use and cleaning of face coverings.

Face shields

Face shields are not required for general use but provide added protection when combined with a face covering. Face shields can be especially helpful in environments where the risk of exposure to droplets, splashes, or sprays to the face is increased. A shield protects the entire face, is easy to clean, and prevents the person wearing it from touching their face.

If you wear a shield, remember that it should be worn in addition to a face covering and in combination with social distancing, handwashing, and other hygiene practices.

Review Environmental Health and Safety’s guidelines for safe use and cleaning of face shields.

The university is providing face shields for faculty, staff, and students upon request.

Additional notes

  • Unit business managers can request face coverings or face shields for their area. Units with existing personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements should acquire general lab and workplace safety PPE through the usual process.
  • Students may request a face shield at the VolShop.
  • Wellness kits were distributed to residence halls, sorority and fraternity housing, off-campus housing complexes, and campus offices. Students can pick up any remaining wellness items, while supplies last, at the Student Union information desk.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.