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Face Covering FAQ About COVID-19


The University of Houston-Downtown requires that all individuals entering campus wear a face covering.

What is a face covering? 

A face covering is a cloth or other type of material that covers an individual’s mouth and nose. The CDC lists five criteria for “cloth face coverings,” which should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
  • Cover nose as well as mouth
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • If not disposable, then be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape.
What is the purpose of the face covering?  

Wearing a face covering is about protecting others and our community. Those with COVID-19, even those who do not know they have COVID-19, naturally expel droplets contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 when breathing, talking, sneezing, coughing, etc. Wearing a face covering in public shows you care enough to protect others.

What is a public area?

 A public area is any indoor space other than your own private office, personal residence or personal vehicle. Public areas include lobbies, elevators, restrooms, cafeterias, classrooms, hallways, stairwells, common spaces, conference rooms, the library, and break rooms. Face coverings should be worn in indoor public areas, even if you are by yourself, or any outdoor space where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to be reliably maintained.

Who will provide face coverings to faculty and staff, students, visitors, or contractors? 

​ It is the responsibility of the individual to provide their own face covering. However, each department may have a small supply of disposable face coverings on hand.

Are there other options for face coverings besides a cloth mask? 

There are a variety of cloth face coverings available that you can find online or you can make your own following the CDC guidelines. The CDC recommends at least two layers of tightly knit cotton or the more detailed Olson design. In some cases, the use of a face shield may be appropriate.

Do I wear a face covering while eating or drinking? 

No, you do not need to wear a face covering while eating or drinking. After removing your face covering for eating, place the face covering into a bag to help keep the material clean and away from other people and items in your proximity. As soon as your meal is complete, wash your hands or clean your hands with hand sanitizer and replace your face covering, then clean your hands again. Eating and drinking in a classroom may be limited to ensure compliance with face covering requirements.​

Am I required to wear a face covering while in my on-campus private office? 

Face coverings are not required when faculty/staff are alone in their on-campus private offices. 
Do I need to wear a face covering in the hallways and other areas of my office building? 

Face coverings are required when faculty/staff/students and visitors are on campus. Face coverings are also required while in common areas and bathrooms.
Are face coverings required while riding a bus or parking shuttle? 

Yes, face coverings must be worn while riding a bus or parking shuttle, even if no one else is on the bus, to decrease respiratory secretions on surfaces within the bus. Contaminated surfaces may still be a source of infection, so it is advisable to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after exiting the bus.​

Are face coverings required while operating a university vehicle? 

Yes, face coverings must be worn in a shared vehicle, even if no one else is in the vehicle, to decrease respiratory secretions on surfaces within the vehicle. Contaminated surfaces may still be a source of infection after you have left. If the vehicle is assigned to a single employee, and that person is alone in the vehicle, a face covering does not need to be worn.​

Are face coverings required in work areas that are separated by cubicle walls or partitions? 

Face coverings must be worn in any public area. However, a workspace is not in a public area when it allows for reliably maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from others or​ includes a physical barrier between other workspaces. In these areas, a face covering is highly recommended but not required.​

If I have already had COVID-19, do I have to wear a face covering?  

Yes. Scientific understanding of COVID-19 is still evolving, and currently it is not known when those who have had the disease can be re-infected and become contagious again.​

What if I encounter a scenario that is not clear whether or not I should wear a face covering? 

You should use your own knowledge and select the option that best protects and comforts those around you. A good standard to follow is to wear a face covering in public settings.​

Can a person request an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering? 

Exceptions may be made for those individuals who, due to a specific medical condition, cannot wear a face covering and have received an accommodation. Requests for an exemption due a medical condition for students will be handled by through the Office of Disability Services and requests for employees will be handled by Employment Services and Operations.​

Process for Students

  • Students not currently registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) requesting an exception to the Universities' face covering requirement will submit a request to the OSD using the “New Students” icon on the ODS’s webpage.
  • Students currently registered with the ODS will make this request using the “Returning Students” icon on the ODS webpage.
  • For additional information about this accommodation request process, please email

Compliance with the face covering directive will be handled like any other University policy, standard, or guideline. The person refusing or failing to comply with the face covering directive may be subject to disciplinary action

How will the face covering directive be implemented in the classroom?

The university will provide standard language for syllabi regarding protocols to be used in the classroom to address use of facemasks. Instructors of record will ensure compliance with the face covering directive unless an exemption has been granted by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). If the face covering exception is approved for on campus use, an approved accommodation letter will be provided to the student by ODS.

Students will be notified through their courses’ syllabi and provided with standard language of the University’s requirement to wear face coverings. If a student attends the in-person component of a class without a face covering, then the instructor of record should ask the student to put on a face covering with positive coaching or to leave the classroom if the student does not wish to wear a face covering. If the student refuses to comply, the instructor of record can end the class meeting to avoid putting the instructor of record and other students at risk. The instructor of record should report non-compliant students to the Dean of Students by submitting a 4+Student Conduct Incident Reporting Form.

How will the face covering directive be implemented for faculty?

Faculty not complying with the face covering directive will receive positive coaching and, if that fails, disciplinary action will be initiated following the university procedures. 

How will the face covering directive be implemented for staff?     
Staff not complying with the face covering directive will receive positive coaching and, if that fails, disciplinary action will be initiated following the process outlined in institutional policy PS 02.B.03, Discipline and Dismissal of Regular Staff Employees Policy.
How should I raise a concern about someone not adhering to the face covering requirement? 

If you are around someone who is not wearing face mask, politely step away from that person. Then please contact the faculty or staff member who is supervising the person or the space where the infraction occurred or the nearest department office. The department head or building leadership will be in a position to ascertain whether the person has an exemption and, if not, politely direct the person to wear a face covering or vacate the public area.
Can students or employees be directed to vacate University property by a supervisor if they refuse to wear a face covering? 

Yes, unless they have received an exemption or the area or position has been granted a waiver from the face coverings policy. If individuals are not wearing a face covering in a public area, then the first response should be a collegial reminder and an offer of a clean face covering, if one is available. If the individual refuses to wear a face covering, a supervisor (for students this could be a faculty member or a staff member overseeing the area) may direct the individual to leave the public area. ​

If I have a student in my class who is deaf or hard of hearing, should I wear a face covering? 

​For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, opaque face coverings can be a hindrance to communication either due to lack of ability to read lips or difficulties using a sign language interpreter. The Office of Disability Services will work with faculty as needed to determine appropriate accommodations (e.g., wearing a face shield or a transparent face covering to accommodate students relying on lip reading). For classes using sign language interpreters, interpreters will either wear a face shield or provide remote interpreting.  
Are there limits to the design of the face covering? 

​Yes. The policy on Freedom of Expression (SAM 01.D.15) states as follows: “Activities that are unlawful or that materially and substantially disrupt the normal operations of the university’s campus are prohibited.” And, “Activities that inherently lose First Amendment protection (e.g., defamatory statements, true threats/fighting words, obscenity [as defined by law]).”

Last updated 4/30/2021 11:20 AM