While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended the public layer two masks rather than one to protect against emerging COVID-19 variants, Loyola’s mask policy remains the same. The Phoenix breaks down how students should be masking to protect against COVID-19.
What are Loyola’s expectations for mask-wearing?
The university asks students, staff and faculty to wear masks and practice social distancing when in the presence of others on or around Loyola’s campuses, according to Loyola’s Return to Campus page.
“[Mask-wearing] applies to outdoor and indoor spaces, including study spaces such as the library and Damen Student Center,” Joan Holden, director of Loyola’s Wellness Center, told The Phoenix in an email. “Masks should be worn correctly (fit snugly and completely over the nose and mouth), in order to be the most effective at protecting the community from COVID-19 transmission.”
Required personal safety practices, including mask-wearing, are covered on Loyola’s Return to Campus webpage which was last updated Jan. 14. Loyola requires students and faculty to wear one of four options; a cloth face covering, a disposable mask, a medical-grade surgical mask or an N95 respirator. According to the site, cloth masks must be washed between each use, disposable masks must be thrown away and medical-grade surgical masks and N95 respirators shouldn’t be used for general use — only in medical facilities and other approved areas with task-specific hazards.
In addition, the website notes mask-wearing isn’t required when alone in an office or workspace.
“Those who do not follow Loyola’s surveillance testing protocol and plan to access campus will lose building access privileges until they have received a negative result from one of Loyola’s tests,” the Wellness Center wrote in a Feb. 25 email to the Loyola community. “Repeated failure to comply will also be considered a violation of Loyola’s Community Standards and will result in a referral to one’s supervisor/chair (employee) or the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (student).”
Will Loyola now require double-masking?
While the CDC is recommending double-masking, Loyola isn’t requiring it, Holden said.
“We are aware that the CDC now recommends wearing either a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric or wearing one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask,” Holden said.
The CDC recommends mask-wearers invest in masks with nose wires — a piece of metal securing the mask over the bridge of the nose — mask fitters or braces, an additional strap that wraps around the head and over the mask to secure a tighter fit. It also suggests wearing multiple masks — combining cloth over a disposable — and suggests users tie knots in a mask’s ear loops to avoid gaps when possible. These additional precautions help keep the wearer’s respiratory droplets in and other’s out, further preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Wellness Center follows the CDC’s face covering guide closely to stay up to date on emerging COVID-19 recommendations, according to Holden.
“Students, faculty, and staff must continue to wear a mask if coming to campus but are not required to wear two masks if one mask provides adequate protection,” Holden said. “Depending on what type of mask one may select, wearing two masks may not be necessary, as some single masks with multiple layers provide enough protection on their own. We encourage community members to do whatever makes you feel the most safe.”
Do Loyola-provided masks protect against COVID-19?
Loyola started distributing two Loyola-branded masks to each student in March 2020. These masks consist of two layers of fabric and elastic straps to loop around each ear.
While the masks haven’t been approved for medical use or formally tested, they do meet CDC standards due to their two-layer design that provides a snug fit around the nose and mouth for the wearer, Holden said. According to the CDC’s guide on mask types, cloth masks should include multiple layers of tightly woven fabric, a nose wire and should block light when held against a bright source. While they may fit snugly, Loyola-provided masks do not have a nose wire, however they do appear to be tightly woven and mostly block light when held to a bright source.
Why should Loyola students wear masks?
“We realize that these practices might not align with an individual’s personal preferences and may cause temporary discomfort, but they contribute to a positive short- and long- term impact on community health safety, which continues to be our top priority,” Holden said. “As a community for and with others, it is not only essential to protect ourselves at this time, but also our fellow students, faculty, and staff.”
In an effort to maximize safety for the community, Holden encouraged members of the Loyola community to model good mask-wearing behavior in the classroom and around campus. Good mask-wearing technique is mandatory by the university and highlighted in a recent email the Wellness Center released on Feb. 25.
“If student leaders and upperclassmen consistently wear masks during Loyola activities and in common spaces, it sends the message that we are committed to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus,” Holden told The Phoenix. “It also helps everyone in the community feel safer and more comfortable.”
According to the Loyola COVID-19 Dashboard, from July 24, 2020 to March 1, 2021, Loyola has reported a total of 387 COVID-19 cases.
Any infractions of Loyola’s COVID-19 safety practices can be reported to 773-508-MASK (6275). For more information on Loyola’s COVID-19 recommendations, readers can visit the Wellness Center’s COVID-19 Medical Services page and the University’s COVID-19 updates.