Updated May 31, 2022

The University’s mask rules are consistent with CDC guidance, which relies on COVID-19 Community Levels to determine when indoor masking is required. Please be aware of the Community Level in your area. Masks are optional in University facilities where COVID-19 is at Low or Medium levels

What is a “face covering?”

In accordance with the University's health rules, a face covering is any type of cloth or disposable material that covers the mouth and nose and can be safely secured in place (e.g., looped around ears or around the head) while in use. For the purposes of this guidance, face coverings include masks. 

Individuals who choose to wear a face covering should properly wear face coverings that comply with CDC guidance

  • A cloth mask that has multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric.
  • A disposable mask with multiple layers of non-woven material.
  • A mask designed to meet a performance standard.
  • A respirator, such as certain N95s. 

Regardless of the type of mask you choose, it should fit properly over your nose, mouth and chin and include a nose wire. Do not wear a mask with an exhalation valve, vents or other openings, or one that is dirty or wet.

When is a face covering required?

Face coverings are required indoors when the local county is High according to the CDC Community Level, unless you are in your enclosed private office or dwelling with the door closed.

Where can I request a mask on campus if I would like one?

Please contact Environmental Health and Safety at 412-624-9595 or safety@ehs.pitt.edu to arrange for a pickup or delivery of masks, including N95s.

How do I safely wear a face covering? 

Wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.  Doing so will help reduce the spread of COVID and layering this protection with vaccinations helps to prevent severe illness.  When face coverings are required indoors on your campus, you will need to wear it as consistently as possible in University facilities, especially when in the presence of others.  When it is not possible to wear a face covering, such as when eating and drinking, we encourage you to avoid sitting in common spaces, like break rooms, conference rooms, or lounges.  If eating or drinking in a common area in the presence of others, only remove your face covering to eat or drink, in order to limit your exposure. 

How do I safely remove my mask?

Handle by the ties, straps, or ear loops. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing. Clean your hands after removing mask and store mask in a clean bag.

May I resuse my face mask?

Face masks can be generally worn for up to one week and/or disposed of when soiled or damaged.

What is the difference between surgical masks and N95 masks?

Pitt is now distributing masks with enhanced filtration. Surgical masks remain available at Concierge Stations, and N95 masks are also available.  The use of surgical masks or N95 masks are not required at this time. They are provided as options.  The use of well-fitted face covering is still required. See below.  If you have trouble breathing while wearing a mask, a 3-ply surgical mask is a good option.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks meet ASTM standards for filtration and fluid penetration.  The varieties of surgical masks provided as face coverings by Pitt have ear loops, are three-ply and have a nose piece that should be adjusted to provide a snug fit. Surgical masks can be re-used in most scenarios on campus.  Please change the surgical mask upon contamination or obvious soiling. Individuals in labs should change masks more frequently, especially after a laboratory task that could introduce contamination of the mask.

N95 Mask

N95 masks are certified by NIOSH for filtration. The varieties of N95 masks provided as face coverings by Pitt have elastic straps, enhanced filtration and a nose piece that should be adjusted to provide a snug fit. N95 masks used as face coverings can be re-used in most scenarios on campus.  Re-use for five full shifts (or one week) is a general guide, but judgement should be used to change the N95 mask upon contamination or obvious soiling.

What factors should I consider when selecting a mask?

The most important factors to consider when selecting a mask are fit and comfort. A mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, be secure under your chin and fit snugly against the sides of your face. The mask must be comfortable so that you avoid excess handling and adjustment of the mask while wearing.

What about KN95 masks?

“KN95” is a Chinese designation for masks. These masks typically have ear loops and are not required to meet any recognized standard. The FDA has given emergency use authorization for some brands of KN95s, however, these internationally manufactured products often lack government oversight, resulting in counterfeit manufacturing and distribution. Use with caution.

Also, if you find it difficult to breathe while wearing a KN95, remember that a surgical mask may be a better option. We also recommend that you not double mask if you are wearing a KN95.

Do I have to wear a face covering while traveling?

Yes. The CDC has issued an order that requires face masks to be worn by all travelers while on public transportation (which includes all passengers and all personnel operating conveyances). People must wear masks that completely cover both the mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding, disembarking or traveling on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares as they are traveling to, within or out of the United States and U.S. territories. People must also wear masks while at transportation hubs (e.g., airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, seaports, U.S. ports of entry, and other locations where people board transportation in the United States and U.S. territories).

What should I do if the surgical mask or N95 mask provided is too large for my face?

Smaller face masks for staff can be requested through your supervisor. Pitt EH&S can help. If concerns remain after trying the smaller face mask, contact safety@pitt.edu.

What options exist for people who read lips?

Clear face masks can be obtained through the Office of Disability Resources.

Can I buy my own mask?

Yes. You are not required to use the masks provided by Pitt.