Everything you need to know about masking before returning to campus

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As Blazers return to campus to begin the fall semester, wearing face masks will be required to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Wearing appropriate personal protective gear (PPE) is a simple, yet effective way to do your part to help stop the spread of coronavirus — but only when you do it correctly and hygienically, say UAB medical experts.

“The purpose of wearing a cloth face mask is not to prevent you from getting the virus, but to protect other people from getting the virus from you,” said Penni Watts, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nursing at the UAB School of Nursing. “The mask protects others from your germs when you cough or sneeze.”

Watts adds it is also a way to help people avoid touching their faces, specifically the nose and mouth — where the virus can enter and infect the body.

Always remember to don your face masks on campus.

Everyone on UAB's campus is required to wear a mask at all times when on campus except at a private residence hall room, workstation or office that is enclosed where others are not present. Employees and students will be provided two cloth masks upon their return to campus. Individuals may wear their own face covering as long as they are workplace-appropriate. Employees should check with their HR representative with questions. Students with questions are encouraged to ask Student Affairs. 

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Wear your mask correctly.

It’s crucial that the mask covers your nose and your mouth, says UAB infectious disease physician Rachael Lee, M.D. Do not wear it below your nose.

“I have seen people wearing it below their noses, on their chins, on top of their heads. It needs to completely cover your mucosal area, which is your nose and your mouth,” Lee said. “If you feel it slipping, make sure you wash your hands again before you adjust it.”

Follow masking do’s and don’ts.

Before you pick up your mask, make sure you have washed your hands with soap and water or used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Before you take your mask off, wash or sanitize your hands. It is also important to remember which side was on the outside. When you take the mask off, you should carefully fold it to protect the side facing your mouth and nose. Then you can put it in a paper bag for storage until you need it again. Wash your hands one more time after you put the mask away.

Don’t forget to wash your masks.

The best way to clean a cloth face mask is to wash it in a washing machine. You should wash and dry it at least once a day if possible, experts say. If you do not have access to a washing machine, handwash the mask using soap and water.

Once it is clean and dry, store the mask in a new paper bag or in a place where it will not be touched or coughed on by other people in your home.

Wearing a clean mask also can help prevent acne flareups from masking, says UAB dermatologist Lauren Kole, M.D.

Don’t forget your mask on Blazer Express.

UAB’s moving campus is no exception to the masking rule. Blazer Express riders are required to bring and wear masks, and drivers have been instructed not to allow passengers without face coverings to board vehicles. This requirement applies to all Blazer Express services, including Highlands Shuttle, Safety Escort and the Deck Van Service.

No mask or sewing skills? Learn how to make a no-sew mask in 5 minutes

All you need is a T-shirt, sharp scissors and a few minutes to make a T-shirt mask that properly covers the nose and mouth, says Lillis Taylor, artist-in-residence with UAB’s Institute for Arts in Medicine.