Face Coverings

All University of Minnesota System faculty, staff, students and visitors, including contractors, service providers, vendors, and suppliers are required to wear face coverings. This protocol does not apply to children under the age of 2 years, anyone unable to remove a face covering without assistance, and anyone who cannot wear a face covering because of health, disability, or religious reasons. Individuals who cannot wear face coverings because of health or disability reasons should contact Disability Resources (students, visitors) or the

Expand all

Face Coverings - General: Information about the face covering protocol

What is the University’s stance on face coverings?   

Scientific understanding of the transmission of COVID-19 has evolved, and we now know that wearing a simple face covering provides valuable, albeit imperfect, protection against the spread of COVID-19. As a result, face coverings are now required in most situations indoors.

How are face coverings part of a larger effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19? 

Face coverings are a visual reminder that we must all take precautions to protect our own health and that of those around us. This is particularly true as individuals can carry COVID-19 with no apparent symptoms and face coverings reduce the chance that such asymptomatic carriers unknowingly infect others.

Why are you mandating face coverings when scientists and experts disagree on their effectiveness in many settings? 

As scientists continue to learn about COVID-19, their research evolves. We now know that safety measures such as washing hands, using hand sanitizers, daily disinfecting of spaces, and wearing a simple face covering provides valuable, albeit imperfect, protection against the spread of COVID-19, and it is a visual reminder that we must all take precautions to protect our own health and the health of those around us. The CDC has more information available regarding the research

To whom does the face covering protocol apply?

All University of Minnesota System faculty, staff, students and visitors, including contractors, service providers, vendors, and suppliers. This protocol does not apply to children under the age of 2 years, anyone unable to remove a face covering without assistance, and anyone who cannot wear a face covering because of health, disability, or religious reasons. Individuals who cannot wear face coverings because of health or disability reasons should contact Disability Resources (students, visitors) or the Disability Resources Center/U Return (faculty, staff) to engage in the interactive process and explore reasonable accommodations.

What type of face covering is acceptable?  

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended face coverings can include simple cloth coverings, scarves or bandanas. Disposable paper masks are also acceptable. All face coverings must extend from the bridge of the nose to below the chin. N95 or surgical masks are not required nor should they be bought or worn by people outside of health care or other specialized settings, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The CDC recommends face coverings that:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face,
  • Are secured with ties or ear loops,
  • That include multiple layers of fabric,
  • That allow for breathing without restriction, and
  • That can be laundered and machine-dried without damaging them or changing their shape.

Is a face shield an appropriate alternative to a cloth face covering or mask?

Yes. In some cases face shields may be an appropriate alternative, as advised by the Minnesota Department of Health. If you have a disability or medical condition, please contact Disability Resources (students, visitors) or the Disability Resources Center/U Return (faculty, staff). 

Where can I obtain face coverings? 

Masks have been distributed to faculty and staff through the mail. Students can get their free masks at locations around campus.

Do I have to wear a University-provided face covering to comply with this requirement? 

No, you may also wear an appropriate cloth covering (see above), such as a scarf or bandana, or a face shield that covers your nose and mouth. 

What recommendations do you have for properly utilizing face coverings? 

University Health and Safety has guidelines for properly wearing cloth face coverings. All face coverings must extend from the bridge of the nose to below the chin. The CDC also has information about face masks available online.

Does wearing a mask reduce the need for physical distancing?

No. Physical distancing guidelines, as provided in the Sunrise Plan, are to be used in tandem with face coverings and other COVID-19 prevention practices. Guidelines include maintaining six feet of distance between you and others, avoiding group gatherings and confined areas, and avoiding use of other people’s equipment and workstations.

Face Coverings - Indoors: Requirements specific to indoor spaces

Are there exceptions when face coverings would not be required indoors? 

Face coverings are not required under the following circumstances:

  • A room when only one individual is present. 
  • Indoor spaces where separate official guidance is posted.
  • When eating or drinking, but face coverings should be replaced as soon as possible afterward.
  • In your own residence hall or apartment room. Please note: they are still required in any common spaces (hallways, lounges, shared areas within bathrooms, etc.)
  • When unable to wear a face covering while exercising at the Sports and Health Center, as long as all other facility policies, rules, and guidelines are followed.
  • When alone in a motor vehicle.
  • An individual has a disability or medical condition that makes wearing a face covering difficult or impossible. Please contact Disability Resources (students and guests) or the Disability Resources Center/U Return (faculty and staff) to engage in the interactive process and explore reasonable accommodations.
  • An individual with a religious accommodation through Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

If I’m expecting a visitor to my work space or campus residence (residence halls, apartments), what is the requirement for them? 

All visitors to the campus are required to wear a face covering when indoors unless they have a disability or medical condition that prevents them from doing so. Disability Resources is available to explore alternative accommodations for guests visiting University facilities. 

Face Coverings - Outdoors: Requirements specific to outdoor spaces

Are face coverings required outdoors?


It depends. Face coverings are required in outdoor settings on campus if safe physical distancing and limits on the
size of gatherings are not being observed. Where safe physical distancing and small groups are in place, face coverings are strongly encouraged but not required.

Are there any outdoor settings where face coverings will be required? 

In situations where effective physical distancing cannot be achieved, and large groups of individuals will be gathering for extended periods, face coverings are required.

Face Coverings - Housing/Dining: Information about mask wearing when you live and eat on campus

Am I required to wear a face covering in my on-campus residence hall? 

No, you are not expected to wear a face covering while in your room or apartment. However, face coverings are required in common areas such as hallways, study spaces, lobbies, bathrooms, or dining facilities.

Do I need to wear a face covering outdoors or walking to/from class or other on-campus locations?

It depends. Face coverings are required indoors. They are also required for outdoor settings on campus or other grounds if safe physical distancing and limited gathering requirements are not being observed. Where safe physical distancing and gathering practices are being observed, face coverings are strongly encouraged but not required.

If my roommates or neighbors refuse to wear a face covering and/or follow other public health recommendations, what should I do?

The first step is always to talk to them about wearing a face covering from a caring, social enforcement approach. For example, you could say something like, “Hey, I know you aren’t wearing a mask, but remember we all agree to wear these to protect ourselves and each other. I’m feeling stress related to this. Would you be willing to wear a mask so that we can all be safe together?”

  1. If the person refuses to comply after you have asked them to wear a face covering, please seek a resident advisor or other UMD staff member to assist you with next steps.
  2. Please remember that some individuals may be unable to wear a face covering because of health, disability, or religious reasons.

What is required in dining facilities? Will exceptions be made while eating/drinking?

Face coverings are required when you are in dining facilities except while eating and drinking. Regardless, physical distancing must be observed.

Face Coverings - Faculty: Information specific to teaching and conducting research at the University

Should my syllabus state that face coverings are required?


Now that face coverings are required indoors, you do not need to explicitly state that they are required in your syllabus. However, you may want to reiterate that you expect students to comply with all University public health policies, including the wearing of face coverings. 

A student in my class is not wearing a face covering. What should I do?

The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict resolution is available to consult with faculty. 

Class enforcement process: 

  1. Talk with the student to apprise them of their available options to comply with the face covering directive, pursue a disability-related accommodation or pursue a religiously-affiliated accommodation.
    1. If the student wishes to pursue a disability-related accommodation, ask them to leave class and direct them to Disability Resources, who will engage the student in the interactive process and identify reasonable accommodations. 
    2. If the student wishes to pursue a religious accommodation, ask them to leave class and direct them to Annalisa Peterson, UMD’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Associate.
    3. If the student does not want to pursue the options in (a) or (b) above, ask the student to put on a face covering for class as part of upholding Teaching and Learning: Instructor and Student Responsibilities policy for a safe classroom environment: 
      1. Sample language: "We are a community within close proximity of each other, working together to keep each other safe. Can you put your face covering on please? If you don't have one, here is one, but please remember for next class, ok?"
    4. If the student refuses, the professor will ask the student to leave for the class session. 
    5. Following the class session, the instructor will follow up with an email to the student reiterating expectations (including a reminder of the University face covering-wearing expectations, the Teaching and Learning: Instructor and Student Responsibilities, and the Student
      Conduct Code
      ). The instructor will reiterate that in order for them to participate in class they need to wear a face covering unless they have worked with Disability Resources on accommodations. The instructor will also let the student know that if this happens again, the student will be asked to leave class and the instructor will submit a report to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution
    6. There may be instances in which a student forgets to wear their face covering more than one time. It is up to the instructor’s discretion to determine if the student is unwilling to comply or simply forgot and needs a subsequent reminder. At any point the instructor is encouraged to have an educational conversation if the student repeatedly forgets but willfully complies when reminded.
      1. If a second offense occurs, the instructor will ask the student to leave class and the instructor may submit a report to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR).  
      2. If subsequent offenses occur, the faculty member will report the behavior to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. If the information in the report suggests a possible violation of the Student Conduct Code, OSCCR will follow the procedures outlined on their website..

A student in my class is wearing something over their face, but it does not appear to be a face covering that is sufficient (i.e., doesn’t cover their nose, overly porous material). What should I do?

See the answer in the previous question.

A student not wearing a face covering says that they have a religious reason, disability, or medical condition that precludes wearing any sort of face covering. What should I do to accommodate them?

Provide the contact information for Disability Resources or EOAA, who will engage in an interactive process to discuss individualized accommodations, which may include issuance of a face shield. 

Can I set the policy in my lab or research space for face coverings? 

Yes, but it must be consistent with the guidelines outlined here, i.e., indoor face covering usage is required unless the space is clearly occupied by only a single individual.

Someone in my class has shown up with a face covering that contains a message or symbol that is offensive or threatening. What can I do?

You have a few options.  One is to engage your student -- ask them about the message and let them know that you find it offensive.  If you feel uncomfortable having a conversation yourself, you can get help by filing a campus climate complaint here. Your complaint will be reviewed for any relevant policy violations and if there are none, the person you reported will still be notified of your concern and invited to discuss it. 

Are face coverings required when I’m working in my office/lab/workspace alone? 

No, as long as you are confident that the space will not be occupied by others while you are there or very shortly after your departure.

Face Coverings - CoCurricular, Service Providers, and Related Professional Staff: Information relevant to co-curricular educational experiences and other professional services offices

A student who comes to a co-curricular educational program/event or to my offices is not wearing a face covering. What should I do?

  1. Talk with the student to inform them of their available options to comply with the face covering directive, pursue a disability-related accommodation or pursue a religious exception.Sample language: "We are a community within close proximity of each other, working together to keep each other safe. Can you put your face covering on please? If you don't have one, here is one, but please remember for the next time?"
    1. a. If the student wishes to pursue a disability-related accommodation, ask them to leave the area and direct them to Disability Resources, who will engage the student in the interactive process and identify reasonable accommodations.
    2. b. If the student wishes to pursue a religious exception, ask them to leave the area and direct them to Annalisa Peterson, UMD’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Associate.
    3. c. If the student does not want to pursue the options in (a) or (b) above, ask the student to put on a face covering for a safe campus environment in support of the Face Coverings protocol for the University of Minnesota.
  2. If the student refuses, you can ask the student to leave the program, the event, or your office. Following the incident, you should follow up with an email to the student reiterating the face coverings requirement and that compliance is expected in the future. You should also let the student know that if this happens again, the student will be asked to leave and you will submit a report to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution for review as a possible violation of the Student Conduct Code.
  3. There may be instances in which a student forgets to wear their face covering more than one time. It is up to your professional discretion to determine if the student is unwilling to comply or simply forgot and needs a subsequent reminder. At any point, you are encouraged to have an educational conversation if the student repeatedly forgets but willfully complies when reminded.
    1. a. If a second offense occurs, you may ask the student to leave the program, event, or your area and then submit a report to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
    2. b. If subsequent offenses occur, report the behavior to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. If the information in the report suggests a possible violation of the Student Conduct Code, OSCCR will follow the procedures outlined 

A student in my program/event/office is wearing something over their face, but it does not appear to be a face covering that is sufficient (i.e., doesn’t cover their nose, overly porous material). What should I do?

See the answer in the previous question.

A student not wearing a face covering says that they have a disability or medical condition that precludes from wearing a face covering. What should I do to accommodate them?

Provide them the contact information for Disability Resources, who will engage the student in the interactive process and explore alternative accommodations. Disability Resources may verify with you that a student does not have to wear a facial covering, but they will not disclose the reason.

Someone in my program/event/office has shown up with a face covering that contains a message or symbol that is offensive or threatening. What can I do?

You have a few options. One is to engage your student -- ask them about the message and let them know that you find it offensive. If you feel uncomfortable having a conversation yourself, you can get help by filing a campus climate complaint here. Your complaint will be reviewed for any relevant policy violations and if there are none, the person you reported will still be notified of your concern and invited to discuss it.

Face Coverings - Workspaces: Information for those working at the University

Will faculty or staff be allowed to enter the workplace without a face covering?

No. All faculty and staff are required to wear a face covering as directed when on campus whether working in a campus facility, or outside where physical distancing and gathering size limitations are not being observed.

Are face coverings required when I’m working in my office/lab/workspace alone?

No. Face coverings are not required when alone in a room or where permitted by an official University notice posted in the space. You should receive clear instruction from your supervisor if this may
be allowed in your area before deciding to not wear a face covering.

A faculty or staff member that I supervise is not wearing a mask or other face covering. What should I do?

Meet with the individual one-on-one and have a private, respectful conversation in which you explain the face covering requirement. If the person has a religious exemption, medical condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering or they otherwise wish to seek accommodations, they should consult with their UMD human resources representative, Disability Resource Center/UReturn, or EOAA to explore potential alternatives. If there is no medical condition or disability, provide them with a mask and request that they start to wear it immediately.

My colleague or supervisor is not wearing a face
covering. What should I do?

Politely ask that your coworker or supervisor wear a face covering. If they are not following the University’s direction, this can be immediately reported to your next-level supervisor, senior leader, or UMD Human Resources.

What are the consequences of not wearing a face covering?

If a faculty or staff member refuses to wear a face covering, their supervisor should first support the individual’s ability to cooperate with face covering guidelines through education/coaching and problem solving, such as explaining the benefits of face coverings, and providing a mask to an employee who has forgotten a face covering or was unable to purchase one. If staff or faculty continue to refuse, supervisors must deal with this as a safety or conduct issue. 

Face Coverings - Accommodations: Information for those who may need an accommodation to the mask requirement


Who can advise me if I need an accommodation or if I’m a supervisor needing guidance about potential accommodations?

Employees or supervisors should contact their college or unit human resources representative about seeking accommodations. HR representatives will contact the Disability Resource Center to explore potential accommodations.

Who can help if I cannot wear a face covering due to a disability or medical condition?

Disability Resources is available to explore alternative accommodations for students and guests. The Disability Resource Center is available to help employees explore alternative accommodations.

I have experienced discrimination based on my need for accommodations. What should I do?

We understand that a directive to wear a face covering may exacerbate implicit biases and existing stereotypes. All members of the University community should avoid stigmatizing others because they are wearing or not wearing face coverings. If you are experiencing such discrimination or criticism, please contact Annalisa Peterson, UMD’s EOAA Associate. 

Are there religious or other reasons that alternative accommodations may be needed?

Yes, it is possible. Please discuss the need for alternative accommodations with a human resources representative or contact Annalisa Peterson, UMD’s EOAA Associate. 

Face Coverings - Compliance: Information about how this requirement will be implemented

What should I do if I observe others not complying with this requirement?

The University expects the University community to behave responsibly with respect for the health and safety of others. We are a community. We can help keep each other safe and we all need to be part of the solution. Staff and students should not attempt to directly enforce this directive but instead should share any concerns of suspected violations with their immediate supervisor or appropriate school official (for example Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution). 

Is it appropriate for me to remind someone in an indoor space with me of the face covering requirement? To politely ask them to put a face covering on?

In some instances, it may be appropriate to politely ask others to observe the face covering protocol. However, be careful to avoid stigmatizing other members of the community. Recognize that some members of our community may be exempt from the face coverings requirement or may be utilizing accommodations. Above all, be patient and kind with others as we work together to keep our campus community safe and healthy.

Where can I find the full face covering protocol?

It is posted on the Return to Campus website.

Will people be disciplined for not wearing a face covering?

Compliance with the face covering protocol is expected. Our first preference is to handle this with conversation and a social enforcement approach, but University community members who repeatedly disregard this expectation will be referred to human resources or to offices that engage in student conduct to follow-up.  As with other university regulations, failure to comply may result in disciplinary action through the appropriate supervisor (for employees) and the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (for students).

Where can I find assistance in resolving disputes? 

Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution offers resources for those who need assistance dealing with conflicts involving students on campus. Community members may request to pursue these resources in lieu of filing a formal student conduct complaint relevant to not following rules around wearing a face covering indoors, in the classroom. 

UMD Human Resources offers assistance for those who need assistance dealing with conflicts involving employees.