Masks are one of the best ways we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. With new variants, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant, guidance around mask wearing is ever-changing. It's important to know and understand current public health recommendations around mask wearing.
A decision has been made to continue StFX's mask-wearing policy until (and including) Tuesday, May 31. This means that masks will be required inside all buildings on campus until such time. (updated May 5, 2022)
How to choose, use and care for a mask (link to infographic)
Wearing masks is considered part of our own personal preventive measures we should be taking to do our part in keeping everyone safe and healthy. A mask acts as a barrier. It reduces the chance of spreading respiratory particles to others and prevents particles from landing on surfaces when you cough, sneeze, talk, sing or laugh. It also offers a level of protection to the wearer.
Types of Masks and Respirators (link to infographic)
There are different types of masks available for public use. Three-layer non-medical masks, medical masks and unfitted respirators (e.g. N95) can all be used as masks on our campus. A respirator worn in the community as a mask does not need a formal fit test.
How to make your mask fit properly (link to infographic)
It is important that masks are made of at least three layers (with an effective filter layer in the middle), fit well and are worn safely. Our advice below is based on Health Canada and Nova Scotia Health Authority advice - follow the links below to visit their webpages for more information.
APPROPRIATE USE OF FACE MASKS
When worn properly, a person wearing a mask can reduce the spread of their own infectious respiratory particles.
- allow for easy breathing.
- fit securely to the head with ties, straps or ear loops.
- maintain their shape after washing and drying.
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty.
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment.
- be made of at least three layers two layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen.
- the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric.
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
Face masks should not:
- be shared with others.
- impair vision or interfere with tasks.
- be placed on children under the age of 2 years.
- be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials.
- be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials.
- be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues.
- be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing.
- DO wear a mask covering to protect others.
- DO ensure the mask is made of at least three layers, including an effective middle filter layer.
- DO inspect the mask for tears or holes.
- DO ensure the mask is clean and dry.
- DO wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching the mask.
- DO use the ear loops or ties to put on and remove the mask.
- DO ensure your nose, mouth and chin are fully covered.
- DO replace your mask whenever it becomes damp or dirty.
- DO wash your reusable mask with hot, soapy water and let it dry completely before wearing it again.
- DO store re-usable masks in a clean paper bag until you wear it again. Fold the mask in half so the outside surfaces touch each other.
- DO discard masks that cannot be washed in a plastic lined garbage bin after use.
- DO mark the outside of the mask in some way, if needed, so you can easily identify which side is the outside of the mask and handle it accordingly.
- DON’T reuse masks that are moist, dirty or damaged.
- DON’T wear a loose mask.
- DON’T touch the mask while wearing it.
- DON’T remove the mask to talk to someone.
- DON’T share your mask.
- DON’T leave your used mask within the reach of others.
Remember, wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must also wash your hands often, practice physical distancing and stay home if you are sick. Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 and the risk of serious illness and hospitalization.
HOW TO PUT ON A MASK
- Ensure the mask is clean and dry.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask.
- If none is available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Ensure your hair is away from your face.
- Place the mask over your nose and mouth and secure to your head or ears with its ties or elastics.
- Adjust if needed to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered.
- The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
- Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after adjusting your mask.
While wearing mask, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
HOW TO REMOVE A MASK
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
- If none is available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Remove the mask by un-tying it or removing the loops from your ears.
- Avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it.
- Store the mask in a paper bag, envelope, or something that does not retain moisture if you will be wearing it again.
- After removing the mask, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
CLEANING AND DISPOSING OF MASKS
Masks should be changed and cleaned if they become damp or soiled. You can wash your cloth mask by:
- putting it directly into the washing machine, using a hot cycle, and then dry thoroughly
- washing it thoroughly by hand if a washing machine is not available, using soap and warm/hot water
- allow it to dry completely before wearing it again
Masks that cannot be washed should be replaced when they get dirty or damaged and disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin.
NOT ACCEPTABLE AS MASKS
- Masks with exhalation valves are not allowed, because they do not protect others from COVID-19 and do not limit the spread of the virus.
- Plastic "mouth shields" are NOT acceptable masks.
- Neck gaiters (neck warmers), scarves and bandana are not recommended because they:
- don't include a filter layer
- aren't made of effective materials
- are likely to move or slip out of place
- aren't well secured to the head or ears
- are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself.
WHAT IF SOMEONE IS NOT WEARING A MASK?
Staff and faculty are encouraged to respond when a member of campus is not properly wearing a mask. They can remind the person to pull up or put on their mask when they see it. If the person is refusing to wear a mask, being confrontational or difficult, or if they have been reminded already and still not complying, the staff or faculty member should call Safety and Security at 902-867-4444 and give them the location and person’s name, if known. Security will respond and address the person. You should wait for Security so you can identify the person, if necessary.
Face shields are not a replacement for masks. They simply do not provide the protection that masks do in keeping our particles to ourselves. There are controlled situations where face shields may be considered as an alternative when wearing masks is not suitable, e.g. some teaching environments. If you have a specific situation where this might be appropriate, please consult with your supervisor to seek clarification. Face shields are often used as personal protective equipment (PPE) in some workplace settings. Here is some information about how to care for the StFX-issued face shields:
MASKS ARE NOT PPE
Although they do provide some protection to the wearer, masks are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) because their main purpose is not to protect the wearer, but rather the people near the wearer. The wearing of face masks is an additional personal practice that can help to prevent the infectious respiratory particles of an unknowingly-infected person from coming into contact with other people. This is known as source control - stop the hazard at the source. N95s used in the community do not require a fit test.
Signage is available here.