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Texas A&M University Face Covering Requirements Outlined

May 7, 2021, 4:00 p.m. CDT

Texas A&M is continuing its face-covering requirement inside buildings throughout the campus, and it's highly recommended to have your mouth and nose covered when outdoors if 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

Face coverings are required at upcoming commencement ceremonies.

A&M health experts said that vaccinations for COVID-19 are safe, free to recipient, widely available and very effective at preventing COVID-19. The best available protection strategy against COVID-19 is for you to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The following are more in-depth details about A&M policies related to the pandemic.

FACE COVERING REQUIREMENTS

This revised Standard Administrative Procedure* is effective immediately. This policy will be amended as needed in response to conditions on campus.

The health and safety of Aggies (students, faculty, and staff), especially of vulnerable individuals, is of paramount importance. The primary purpose of wearing a face covering is to reduce the amount of virus spreading from the wearer (who may not know they are spreading the virus) into the environment and to others. The secondary purpose of the face covering is to reduce the likelihood that large droplets containing virus that are generated by others may enter the nose and mouth of the wearer. Within indoor spaces, the use of a face covering does not replace the recommendation to maintain physical distances from others. While physical distancing may not always be possible, at least 6 feet of physical distancing is still recommended. Following CDC guidance, and to protect your fellow Aggies against COVID-19:

  1. All individuals must wear face coverings (cloth face covering, surgical mask, etc.) in indoor public areas on campus, except where marked otherwise, even if alone (includes all non-private office or residential spaces such as lobbies, restrooms, classrooms, teaching laboratories, research laboratories, common spaces in residence halls, conference rooms, and break rooms). Disposable filtering facepiece respirators, such as KN95 and N95s are appropriate.
  2. In outdoor spaces where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to reliably maintain, face coverings are highly recommended.
  3. Currently, those who have received full COVID-19 vaccination are not exempted from this policy. We periodically review the best available science and CDC guidelines, and may update based upon changing science and conditions.

Texas A&M recommends that all individuals on campus have at least three face coverings available to use throughout a week in order to begin each day with a new or cleaned face covering. Those face coverings should follow the current CDC recommendations. If using cloth face-coverings they should, at a minimum, be made of multiple layers of tightly woven cotton fabric. FDA approved surgical masks may also be used as a face covering https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-surgical-masks-and-face-masks.

Definition of a Face Covering (Face Mask): According to CDC guidance and Texas A&M University, for the purpose of the COVID-19 pandemic an effective cloth face covering will:

  • Include multiple layers of tightly woven fabric
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties, ear loops, or wrap around the head (such as gaiter style masks)
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape or be disposable

For cloth face coverings, the following would not be appropriate

  • Hosiery, gauze, hand knit/crochet, and other loosely woven materials
  • Holding a towel, t-shirt, or other non-secured item over your face
  • Any face covering with an exhalation valve does not meet the standards of this policy as they allow particles to exhaust from the wearer.

FACE COVERING IN TEXAS A&M RESEARCH AREAS AND LABORATORIES

In light of CDC guidance, the Texas A&M Division of Research requires that everyone in a research laboratory or research building on campus wear a face covering (cloth face covering, surgical mask, etc.) as detailed in the Division of Research COVID-19 guidance (https://vpr.tamu.edu/covid-19).

Most face coverings are not respiratory protection and must not be substituted for the proper respiratory protection that you may be required to wear as part of your research duties as identified in your respiratory protection program. Respirators with exhalation valves do not impede the spread of virus from the wearer, unless they contain an internal filter, so their use should be evaluated based upon the needs of the situation. Additionally, most cloth face coverings will not have the flame resistance found within FDA approved surgical masks or FDA/NIOSH approved filtering facepiece respirators. In research situations involving heat or open flame an FDA approved surgical mask or filtering facepiece respirator, as appropriate for the task, should be utilized.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE POLICY

Exceptions for areas and individuals will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  • Students who are requesting an exception due to a disability should work with their site-specific disability office (see FAQ for site-specific contact list). Students who are requesting an exception due to a religious concern should contact the Offices of the Dean of Student Life in College Station (https://studentlife.tamu.edu).
  • Employees and visitors who are requesting an exception due to a disability will follow the University SAP 08.01.02.M0.01, Reasonable Accommodation Requests Under the Americans with Disabilities Act at https://rules-saps.tamu.edu/PDFs/08.01.02.M0.01.pdf*. Employees and visitors who are requesting an exception due to a religious concern should contact Employee Relations in the Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness (https://employees.tamu.edu/employee-relations).
  • For areas or occupations where wearing a face covering is not feasible and requests for exemption are not based on a disability or religious concern, a request for an exception to this policy may be made to the Face Coverings Committee by sending an email message to facecovering@tamu.edu. That email must include the request, the building and room number, the reason that face coverings are not feasible, and the additional safety measures taken to further mitigate the risk in the absence of face coverings. Areas where face covering requirements are waived must be clearly marked with signs indicating that an exception to wearing face coverings has been granted.

FACE COVERING 101

TIPS for wearing a face covering during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Face coverings are to be used in conjunction with physical distancing (6 feet physical distancing), engineering controls (changes to ventilation, etc.) and/or administrative controls (reduced number of people at events).
  • Face coverings become contaminated as you wear them, both from yourself and from the environment around you. You should treat them as contaminated and avoid self-contamination or contamination of others by unsafe handling.
  • Remember to wash your hands frequently and to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Face coverings must be put on properly:

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  • Face coverings should fully cover your nose and mouth.
  • Face coverings should be held in place firmly with straps.
  • When you are putting on a face covering, do so by the straps and adjust the covering to cover your nose and mouth, being careful not to touch your face in the process.
  • Once your covering is in place, wash your hands, and wash your hands after each time you adjust your covering.

Face coverings must be taken off properly to avoid self-contamination:

  • Remove face coverings by the straps and move it gently away from your face. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing.
  • If your face covering is disposable, then promptly throw it away; do not place it into your pocket, backpack or where it may contaminate your belongings.
  • If you have a disposable face covering that you have to reuse, then make sure that you store it between uses in a clean breathable container (paper bag) and be careful not to touch the inside of the face covering. Do not store in an airtight container.
  • If you have a reusable cloth face covering, make sure you wash it after each use (a washing machine is fine). Learn more about how to wash your face covering (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html).
  • Wash your hands after handling a used face covering.

TAMU Face Covering Frequently Asked Questions can be found at https://provost.tamu.edu/Menu/News/TAMU-Face-Covering-FAQs*.

* Link no longer exists and has been removed