Guidance on the Use of Face Coverings

Updated 12 June 2020


All faculty, staff, students, and visitors must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth whenever in buildings or on property occupied by Princeton University. This includes, but is not limited to, all buildings and grounds, University vehicles, dining halls, Tiger Transit buses, conference rooms, office buildings, elevators, and parking structures. Individuals do not need to wear a face covering when alone in a room, cubicle, or vehicle or when outdoors and able to keep at least 6 feet from another person.

Wearing a face covering supplements, but does not replace, social distancing. All faculty, staff, students, and visitors should continue to maintain at least six feet (two meters) separation, as possible.

Individuals are not required to wear a face covering if wearing one would inhibit that individual’s health. This includes, but is not limited to, the existence of a medical condition, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the face covering without assistance. If wearing a face covering impedes the ability to complete a job or task, contact Environmental Health and Safety for a risk assessment and evaluation of alternative solutions.


Face coverings are not personal protective equipment. The CDC recommends their use to decrease the spread of droplets containing the virus that may be generated when the wearer coughs, sneezes or talks.

Wearing a face covering does not replace the need for social distancing or other measures to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition to wearing cloth face coverings, remember to:

  • Avoid contact with those who are sick, stay home if you're sick, and if you become sick at work, distance yourself from co-workers, contact your supervisor and go home.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of distance (at least two arm lengths) from others on campus at all times. If you are unable to comply with this requirement, please notify your supervisor or EHS ( You are still considered a close contact, regardless of the use of a face covering, if you were less than 6 feet away for 10 minutes or longer with a COVID-19 positive person.
  • Frequently clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Routinely disinfect high touch points, facilities, work areas, personal electronics, and shared equipment and spaces. Frequently-touched surfaces in University vehicles must be wiped down after each shift or before a different employee uses the vehicle, including steering wheels, door handles, turn signals and gear shifts, seat belts


(See attachment: face coverings, N95 masks and surgical masks)

  • Do not hoard or stockpile face coverings. Supplies are limited and difficult to find. Your cooperation is needed to ensure that we can protect our entire campus community.
  • N95 respirators and surgical masks must be reserved for healthcare workers, first responders and those performing higher risk tasks that require close contact with ill persons.
  • Reusable face coverings
    • Note:  Students and staff may not wear a reusable face covering when conducting research at the laboratory bench with hazardous chemicals, biohazards or radioactive materials.  Disposable face coverings must be worn.
    • Use reusable coverings until they become damaged, soiled, or wet.  Reusable face coverings should be taken home and laundered each night.
    • Reusable coverings should be machine -washed with warm or hot water and laundry detergent by the user.  The coverings can be washed with other laundry items.
  • Disposable Face Coverings
    • Use disposable coverings until they become damaged, soiled, or wet.  If mask becomes damp from normal respiration, perspiration or from water, remove the mask and store in a sanitary location (e.g. paper bag to allow the mask to dry and then reuse.)  Disposable coverings should be used for at least 16 hours unless they are damaged, soiled or soaked with moisture.   
    • Students and staff who conduct research at the laboratory bench with hazardous chemicals, biohazards or radioactive materials must discard the disposable face covering at the end of the day.
  • Employees should have a dry backup covering or mask stored in a sanitary condition (within a closed paper or plastic bag) in the event their mask becomes damaged, soiled, or wet. 

Employee and Student-Provided Coverings

Employees and students are encouraged to wear face coverings, masks, or neck gaiters they have made or purchased instead of University-issued coverings, as long as coverings:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Are secured with ties, ear loops, or equivalent
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Do not have an exhalation valve. Such valves fail to protect persons around the wearer from virus spread.  

Putting on and Taking off your Face Covering

  • Always clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol prior to putting it on, touching covering, or removing your face covering.
  • When removing face-covering use the ear loops, straps, or equivalent from behind the head to take off face covering. Do not touch the front of the covering.


Departments can order face coverings in the marketplace or request face coverings for their employees by emailing  EHS will assess the request and notify the department of details regarding pickup or delivery.  EHS will provide one face covering per employee. Once cloth face coverings have been distributed to a department, the use of disposable face coverings should be phased out.

Undergraduate and graduate students should wear their own face coverings they have made or purchased, except as noted above, for certain types of research at the lab bench.   If unable to purchase or make their own, undergraduate students should obtain face coverings through their Directors of Student Life.  Graduate students should contact Kevin Fleming,, Assistant Director of Residential Life, Office of the Dean of Graduate School.


Go to all COVID-19 Information and Resources »