Effective Nov. 6, all faculty, staff and students—as well as visitors, contractors and vendors—who are approved to be on USask campuses in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert will be expected to wear a face mask (non-medical mask or cloth face covering) in all USask spaces.
This includes hallways, lobbies, libraries, classrooms, laboratories, study spaces, elevators, recreation facilities, shared offices, washrooms, outdoors, and other campus spaces. Students living in residence must wear a face mask in all common and designated areas outside of their private living space.
Face masks must be worn at all times in shared office and laboratory spaces even when physical distancing can be maintained. Unless supported by a documented risk assessment, face masks may only be removed to eat and drink. In these cases, physical distancing must be maintained.
What kind of masks are needed
Not all cloth masks are created equal. Students, faculty, and staff may wear their own personal face covering (non-medical mask or cloth face-coverings) as long as they meet appropriate guidelines.
Non-medical mask or cloth face-coverings must:
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- maintain their shape after washing and drying
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
- not impair vision or interfere with tasks
- recommended to be made of multiple layers (3) of breathable cotton fabric or linen (ie. not plastic). The Government of Canada recommends 2 layers of tightly-woven fabric and a third (middle) layer of a filter-type fabric such as non-woven polypropylene or a disposable filter
- not be a neck warmer, neck gaiter, bandana, scarf, or other clothing not designed to act as a face mask
- not be shared with others
Please Note: Do not use medical masks designed for health-care workers and cloth masks are not a suitable alternative for tasks that require respiratory protection.
There are some exceptions to mandatory face masks—children under 2 years of age, those who cannot don or doff a mask, individuals requiring a medical exception—but in general, it is expected that all university community members, as well as visitors, will follow this requirement.
Proper mask use and care
Putting on, wearing and removing
It is important to understand the proper methods of wearing and removing your mask. A cloth mask must fit securely from near the bridge of the nose to under your chin and stretch about halfway or more to your ears. The ear loops or ties must be secure and not allow for the mask to gape open.
Cleaning and Storage
If a mask becomes wet or soiled, immediately replace it with a clean one. Place the wet/soiled one in a designated “dirty bag” until it can be laundered or discarded. Masks should be laundered immediately after use, do not allow masks to sit unlaundered at home or in the workplace. A “use” is a single shift at work or a trip to a public place e.g. grocery stores.
USask will have a supply of disposable masks available to any member of the campus community who is required and approved to be on campus and is without a mask. If you have soiled or forgotten your mask, you can obtain one at the Health Sciences or Education buildings' check-in sites.
Why they are mandatory
Health and safety of our campus and the broader community has always been the primary principle guiding our decision making during the pandemic and the best public health evidence available tells us that masks make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
The primary benefit of covering your nose and mouth is that you protect others. The virus is spread through coughs, sneezes, and other respiratory secretions. Many times, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before showing symptoms. Up to 25% of people who have the virus never feel symptoms.
- Cloth masks help limit the dispersion of coughs/sneezes.
- Cloth masks can reduce the frequency of face touches.
- When used in combination with social distancing, and good hand hygiene you are reducing your risk of illness.
The close-quartered indoor nature of our teaching, learning, and research environments requires continual analysis and decisions around all health and safety protocols in place during this pandemic. We will continue to implement necessary measures in compliance with federal and provincial health directives.
Remember: Strict hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical distancing, and refraining from going out if you are symptomatic and/or have been exposed to a confirmed case, will reduce the chance of community exposure to the virus.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Non-medical, cloth face coverings are different from PPE.
As described in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, there is currently a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is affecting the healthcare system. N95 respirators, surgical/procedure masks, protective wear/face shields, gloves, and gowns are critical PPE required to protect healthcare workers.
Most workers in non-healthcare settings will not require PPE to protect against COVID-19.
The University of Saskatchewan does not condone the use of defined critical PPE unless supported by an appropriate Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment and/or Exposure Control Plan that determines:
- The work is critical and cannot be completed at a later date;
- There are no alternative control measures to protect workers;
- There is a hazard that requires the use of critical PPE be implemented; and
- There is an adequate supply of needed PPE to complete the task.
Before PPE use is mandated, all other controls (such as hand hygiene, symptom screening, social/physical distancing, work-shift rotation, shielding and staying home when symptomatic or ill) must be implemented.
For assistance in completing a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment and/or Exposure Control Plan for your workplace, please contact Safety Resources.
PPE Use in Laboratories
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the following lab PPE is required at a minimum whenever in a lab, regardless of the materials being handled or the type of work being competed:
- Lab coat – must be worn upon entering the lab and completely fastened. Lab coats must include full sleeve coverage and cannot be altered;
- Safety Glasses – must be worn upon entering the lab. Over-glasses must be used over any prescription glasses that are not CSA approved.
In addition (and as always in USask labs), proper lab attire must be utilized including long pants (that cover the wearer to the ankle) as well as closed-toed and heeled shoes (with socks).Appropriate hand protection (e.g. chemical resistant gloves) must be worn when handling hazardous substances.
Disposable PPE and Reuse
All personnel are encouraged to utilize disposable PPE (e.g. gloves, masks, respirators) sparingly and ensure valuable PPE resources are not unnecessarily diverted from the healthcare system. Please refer to the USask Disposable PPE Reuse and Extended Use Guidelines for more information on extended use of disposable PPE.
Non-medical Masks and Cloth Face Coverings in Laboratories
Non-medical masks and cloth face coverings are not a suitable alternative for tasks that require respiratory protection. These tasks should be evaluated and adequate amounts of PPE should be acquired prior commencing
Medical Masks and Respirators
Medical masks and respirators must only be worn during tasks and procedures when deemed necessary through a hazard assessment. Medical masks and respirators must not be worn outside of these tasks and procedures.
Cleaning and Storage
Lab coats and PPE should always be stored separately (e.g. individual hooks or hangers) in designated areas for each worker to avoid cross-contamination of hazardous substances to clothing surfaces and other PPE. Avoid sharing PPE. Launder lab coats regularly (e.g. weekly for heavy use) and/or when soiled. Replace when necessary.
Disposable PPE Reuse Guidelines
This following guidelines was developed for research, animal, and operations personnel seeking conserve PPE.When using PPE, the following must be adhered to:
- Wear PPE when exposure to hazardous materials cannot be controlled in any other way;
- Remove PPE prior to leaving the work area;
- PPE must not be shared between workers (dedicated PPE per individual); and
- Always wash hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds or apply an alcohol-based disinfectant before and after donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) PPE.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including gloves, masks, glasses, protective headwear, protective clothing, cleaning supplies, and disinfectant is available to purchase through university stores. To ensure a safe level on inventory is maintained, orders should only be placed when you are approved to safely resume work on campus. The supply chain for PPE continues to be under significant strain globally, however, an inventory of PPE is being maintained at the following locations:
- Health Sciences Supply Centre
- Chemistry Stores (in-person only)
- Veterinary Medicine Clinic (in-person only) *The WCVM Loading Dock will be closed from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1
- Dentistry Stores (in-person only)
- AgBio Stores (in-person only)
Please purchase what you need and not stockpile inventory of PPE. Due to a large amount of counterfeit PPE items available online we ask that you continue to purchase items through the campus store locations where you historically shop.