A conceptual illustration of the coronavirus as if it were observed from a microscope is seen.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Mask guidance

College of Medicine faculty, staff, students and postdocs must wear masks while working on-site, except when eating or drinking.

These mask guidelines will be further refined and revised as more information becomes available. Employees are expected to check for updates.

What kind of mask is required?

Laboratory personnel: Level 1 mask

Laboratory personnel working on-site at Penn State College of Medicine must wear Level 1 (procedure) masks to cover the mouth and nose. Masks must remain on at all times, except when eating or drinking.

  • Where to get: Department safety officers or their designees will provide each employee the appropriate type of mask.
  • Extended use: Masks should remain on throughout the day, except when eating or drinking, and should be doffed (taken off) and re-donned (put back on) with care following the instructions on this page. Masks should not be moved between the face and another site, such as under the chin, under the nose or on the head.
  • Storage: Level 1 masks should be stored in a clean paper bag when not being worn.
  • Reuse/replacement: Level 1 masks can be worn for up to seven days. Masks should be replaced if torn, damaged or wet, or after seven days of use. Department safety officers or their designees will issue replacement masks when necessary.
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.

Non-lab personnel: Cloth mask

Personnel working outside a laboratory setting (in offices, at computer workstations, in educational settings, etc.) on-site at Penn State College of Medicine must wear cloth masks to cover the mouth and nose. Masks must remain on at all times, except when eating or drinking.

  • Where to get: Department safety officers or their designees will provide each employee the appropriate type of mask.
  • Extended use: Masks should remain on throughout the day, except when eating or drinking, and should be doffed (taken off) and re-donned (put back on) with care following the instructions on this page. Masks should not be moved between the face and another site, such as under the chin, under the nose or on the head.
  • Storage: Cloth masks should be stored in a clean paper bag when not being worn.
  • Laundering: Cloth masks should be worn for one day and laundered at home daily.
Richard Miller of facilities is seen wearing a cloth mask, which non-clinical and non-laboratory staff working on campus at the College of Medicine have been given and must wear.

Proper mask usage

How to put on mask

These guidelines are appropriate for both Level 1 (procedure) masks to be worn in laboratory areas and cloth masks to be worn elsewhere in the College of Medicine.

  • 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.
  • For Level 1 (procedure) masks, adjust metal piece or stiff edge over nose to ensure a good fit.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer.
Someone is seen picking up a face mask by the ear loops.
The correct way to pick up a mask is by the ear loops.
The proper wearing of a face mask is depicted. The mask covers the wearer's chin, nose and mouth.
This is the proper way to wear a mask. It covers the nose, mouth and chin.

While wearing the mask

  • Avoid touching the mask. If mask adjustment is necessary, sanitize hands immediately before and after touching the mask.
  • Do not wear mask only over mouth or nose. It must cover both.
  • Because the interior of the mask is in contact with the nose and mouth (both potential portals for infection), take extra care so as not to contaminate the interior of the mask.
  • Do not remove the mask to talk to someone, or do other things that would require touching or repositioning the mask.
  • Avoid touching the face, especially while in public areas. Sanitize hands before any contact with face and before and after contact with mask.
  • Social distancing (maintaining 6 feet of distance between yourself and others) should be used wherever possible, especially when you need to remove your mask (e.g., to eat or drink).

How to take off mask

  • Remove mask in an area where it is possible to maintain social distancing (6 feet of distance between yourself and others).
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  • Remove mask by holding the ear loops.
  • For Level 1 (procedure) masks, after removing mask, inspect for tears/holes or dampness. Torn or damp Level 1 masks should be discarded and a new mask obtained from the department safety officer or their designee. Otherwise, Level 1 masks should be worn for seven days.
  • Store on a paper towel with front (exterior) side of mask down or place in a clean paper bag until ready for next use. The paper towel can also be folded around the mask (preferably without touching the mask). Label the paper bag or paper towel with your name.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer.
A face mask is seen properly sitting on a paper towel.
Fask masks may be placed carefully on paper towels while temporarily removed for eating and drinking.

What not to do

  • Do not touch face or mask without first sanitizing hands.
  • Do not store the mask under the chin. If eating or drinking, mask should be fully taken off using the instructions on this page, sanitizing hands before and after.
  • Do not store the mask on one ear. The interior of the mask could brush on surfaces or fall, and then become contaminated.
A woman is seen improperly wearing a mask. Its loop is hanging from one ear.
This is incorrect. Masks should not be stored on one ear.
A woman is wearing a mask incorrectly. It is seen under her chin.
This is incorrect. Masks should be taken off to eat or drink.

Masks: More information

Full College of Medicine mask policy

The information on this page is excerpted from the College of Medicine's full mask policy.

See the full mask policy here.

One-page mask-wearing guide

A one-page visual guide to donning (putting on), doffing (taking off) and wearing both types of masks is available.

See the faculty, staff, student and postdoc one-page mask guide here.

Face shields

A face shield should be worn (in addition to the mask) when working within six feet of another person.

See face shield guidance here.

Answers to frequently asked questions about masks

How can personnel eat or drink when they are supposed to wear a mask?

Eating is not permitted in laboratory areas or in the hallways. Once you are in an approved area for eating and drinking (see approved areas here), ensure you are six feet from others and follow the removal and reuse instructions outlined on this page. All food should be kept in an area apart from laboratory areas. Sanitize hands upon entering and exiting a break area or other designated room where eating and drinking is permitted.

Should employees be wearing the mask at home, and should their families wear masks?

There is generally no reason for well employees and their families to wear masks at home. Social distancing and taking precautions like washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and cleaning surfaces frequently should be appropriate for home. Please follow recommendations from federal and local public health authorities regarding community masking.

Other resources