University Guidelines on Face Masks

Reason for  Guideline

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to promoting the health and safety of all students, staff and faculty, as well as guests and visitors to our campus. Our ability to successfully provide a residential, in-person educational experience depends upon each member of the University community adhering to guidelines adopted for our collective health and safety. Each person has a responsibility to know and act in accordance with all applicable University guidelines and policies, as referenced in our Community Standards.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides that COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. In addition to physical distancing, wearing a face mask  provides  an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other  people. Ongoing scientific studies demonstrate that consistent wearing of face masks when in public spaces is an effective strategy for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. For more information, see  the CDC guidance on face masks.

Definition of Terms

A  face mask mitigates the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the spread of the virus from the wearer to other members of the community

Face masks  may be of different types, including cloth face masks, disposable medical/surgical masks and respirators, but  should at minimum meet the following criteria:

Fit snugly and securely  over the mouth and nose and against the side of the  face; 

  • Be secured by ties or ear loops; 
  • Allow for unrestricted breathing; and 
  • In the case of cloth face masks, be able to be laundered and dried without damage or change to shape.

Guideline Statement 

  • Face  masks that meet the minimum criteria listed above must be worn by all students, staff, faculty and visitors while inside a University building. This includes all in-person classroom settings, public or communal work areas, libraries, dining settings and residence hall common areas. 
    • Students  living in on-campus residence halls or in Granville Towers are not required to wear a mask while in their assigned residence hall room with the door closed. On-campus residents must we are a face mask while in residence hall lobbies, elevators and other common areas.
    • University employees are not required to wear a mask while working alone in a private workspace. A face mask must be worn in common  workspaces  or when others are present in the employee’s  workspace. 
  • Face masks  must be worn by all students, staff, faculty and visitors  while  outdoors on University property where appropriate physical distancing cannot be maintained. This includes areas like The Pit, the quads and other outdoor gathering spaces
  • Face masks must be worn by all students, staff, faculty and visitors  while using University shuttles (e.g., P2P) and other forms of public transportation serving the campus (e.g., Chapel Hill Transit buses).
  • NOTE:  Wearing a face mask is not a substitute for appropriate physical distancing. All members of the University community should maintain appropriate physical distancing whenever feasible.
  • All students, staff, and faculty should familiarize themselves with the  appropriate handling, cleaning  and disposal of their face masks. Following the handling of any face mask (including placing on and removal from one’s face),  the wearer should immediately wash or sterilize their hands. After use, reusable masks should be stored in an appropriate manner (e.g., a paper bag). Disposable masks should be thrown away  immediately in an appropriate trash receptacle. 

Guideline Clarifications and Exceptions:

A face mask is not required in the following limited circumstances:

  • While  actually  eating  or drinking at a dining facility on University property. Compliance with appropriate physical distancing must still be observed. 
  • An exemption to the mask wearing community standard will not typically be considered to be a reasonable accommodation. Individuals with a disability or health condition that prevents them from safely wearing a face mask may seek alternative accommodations through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (faculty and staff) or Accessibility Resources and Service (students).
  • An individual who needs medical attention or services requiring temporary removal of the face mask. 
  • When exercising in a University recreation facility and  observing appropriate physical distancing  and complying with all facility-specific requirements. 
  • Such other limited exceptions as may be expressly approved by senior University officials in consultation with public health and infectious disease experts or as may be required by law.

Relation to Governmental Policies

All students, faculty, and staff are  expected to know and comply with all recommendations and requirements of the state and municipal authorities in locations where they study, live, or work (e.g., directives of the State of North Carolina, Orange County, and the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro).

Duration of Guideline

This guideline  is effective when published in the Roadmap and will remain in effect  indefinitely  until withdrawn or modified  as guided by appropriate health officials.

Compliance and Enforcement 

Compliance with this guideline and other measures adopted in furtherance of campus health and safety are integral to the University’s ability to promote a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community and to provide an effective in-person educational experience. As such, except as otherwise provided herein, all provisions of this guideline are mandatory.

The University encourages all members of the University community to recognize the demonstrated public health benefits of wearing face masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. To assist in achieving universal compliance, the University will provide ongoing communication and education regarding its Community Standards and guidelines. The University will also provide face masks to students, staff and faculty free of charge.  As masks become damaged, soiled or in need of replacement, the University will provide additional masks.

For students, compliance with this guideline is a condition of continued in-person enrollment.  Failure to comply with this policy may result in  administrative action, including, but not limited to,  restriction on access to or use of University facilities, removal from University housing, disenrollment from one or more in-person courses, transition to remote-only instruction and/or other interventions necessary to effect compliance  and protect the well-being of the campus community. In the case of willful failure to comply with the provisions of this policy and/or repeated violations, the University may pursue  additional disciplinary actions in accordance with relevant University policies. 

Latest Update

August 7, 2020