COVID-19 Mask Guidance

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Employee and Student Masking Guidelines

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Masking Guidelines top section

In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention healthcare COVID-19 infection prevention guidance, masking is optional except as defined below.

Penn State Health System and College of Medicine executive leadership have the authority to change the parameters of these masking requirements at any point in time dependent on infection rates and community transmission.

Employees and students may continue to choose to wear a mask based on their personal preference, informed by their perceived level of risk for infection and/or their own or household member’s potential for developing severe disease.

Employees and students are required to wear a level 1 mask in the following scenarios:

  • Are experiencing a runny nose, sore throat, or cough (even if possibly due to allergies)—mask should be worn when within 6 feet of anyone on campus (including co-workers)
  • While working in the following patient care areas:
    • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Units
    • Neonatal Intensive Care Units
    • Adult Hematology-Oncology Units
    • Hemodialysis; or
    • If an outpatient or inpatient is voluntarily masked, out of respect for the patient.

To protect at-risk inpatients (e.g., patients who have never had COVID, especially if immunocompromised), “Droplet precautions” may be ordered to signal to staff to wear masks when entering the patient’s room in any area. This policy is intended to complement the published isolation precaution policy and personal protective equipment protocols in clinical settings.

Department/Unit Manager or their designee will provide employees and students with a mask to be worn when in their work unit as required per policy. Masks should be replaced as soon as they become wet or dirty. As long as supplies are sufficient, employees and students may obtain a new mask at the start of every shift. Cloth masks are not allowed on their own, but they may be worn with a level 1 mask. With the exception of a cloth mask worn in addition to a PSH-issued mask, employees and students should not wear a mask other than those provided by PSH.

Guidelines for appropriate mask wearing can be found in the following section of this policy.

General guidelines for mask wearing

Jessica Witmier wears a Level 1 (procedure) mask while running a COVID-19 test at Penn State College of Medicine/Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in April 2020.
  • Ensure your mask is well-fitting – make sure the mask covers your mouth, nose, and chin without gaps around the sides of your face and adjust nose wire to ensure a snug fit.
  • In addition to wearing a mask, it is also essential to perform excellent hand hygiene to prevent transmission of illness.
    • Sanitize or wash your hands thoroughly after touching any public, commonly touched surface (like a doorknob), or shared computer or phone.
    • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth; if you must touch any part of your face, sanitize or wash your hands thoroughly first.
    • Thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands before eating and drinking.
  • The mask should remain on (extended use). Continue to maintain at least 6 feet distance from others even when wearing a mask.
  • It is important to make sure that the interior of the mask (which is in contact with nose and mouth) remains clean.
    • The interior of the mask should NOT be touched with your hands (unless your hands were cleaned immediately prior).
  • Sanitize or wash your hands thoroughly before and after each time you place the mask on and take it off.

Mask wearing tips


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How to put on mask

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  • Pick up mask by ear loops.
  • Inspect the mask for tears/holes.
  • Identify the top side. For Level 1 (procedure) masks, this is where the metal piece or stiff edge is.
  • Ensure the correct side faces outward. For Level 1 (procedure) masks, this is the colored side.
  • Place the top inside edge (the metal piece or stiff edge for Level 1 masks) over the nose and secure the ear loops behind the ears.
  • Make sure mask covers mouth, nose and chin without gaps around the sides of your face.
  • Knot the ear lips for a snug fit if needed.
  • Fold and tuck in extra material.
  • Adjust metal piece or stiff edge over nose to ensure a good fit.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer.

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The correct way to pick up a mask is by the ear loops.

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This is the proper way to wear a mask. It covers the nose, mouth and chin.