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Guidance on the use of face coverings at York St John University

From 7 September 2020, staff and students at York St John University are expected to wear face coverings inside university buildings, and anywhere outside on campus where it is difficult to maintain 2 metre distance.

Wearing a face covering does not replace physical distancing or good hand hygiene. Please wear a face covering to protect each other and maintain a COVID-safe campus.

The guidance below provides information about face coverings for use at York St John University and for general use.

What is PPE and what is a face covering? 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

There is a clear distinction between PPE and face coverings. 

PPE is a control measure specified within a risk assessment. These items are required to meet a defined standard and can include goggles, gloves, boots, aprons etc. During COVID-19, the term PPE has been generalised to include face coverings but face coverings are not PPE/RPE.

More information and guidance about the differences between surgical face masks, PPE face masks, and face coverings is available on the Government Website.

At York St John, members of staff who carry out student facing teaching will be provided with a face shield at the start of the academic term.

Face Coverings 

A face covering is any form of cloth that covers the ‘mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably’. A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as the NHS. 

There are currently two types of face covering available, reusable (washable) or single-use (disposable).  Improvised face coverings may include a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face. A key point is that washable face coverings should be washed each day; for practicality this would mean each person requires a minimum of two.

The main confirmed sources of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 is the nose and mouth. So, face coverings will protect others, but not the wearer, against the spread of infection. The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Face coverings do not replace physical distancing. If you have symptoms of coronavirus (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste - anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.

A face covering should:

  • Cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
  • Fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face.
  • Be secured to the head with ties or ear loops.
  • Be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable.
  • Ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used).
  • Unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged.
  • should not be offensive, display inflammatory images or wording, and should be worn and disposed of correctly.  
  • It is always useful to put your face covering in a small plastic box or Ziploc-style plastic bag in between wearing it. Always store a face covering in a clean place. Never store it in a handbag or pocket.

You can make your own face-coverings if you wish to be creative, guidance can be found on GOV.UK.

Using a face covering

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • Only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • Ensure your face covering covers both your nose and mouth
  • When wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • Change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you have touched it
  • Continue to wash your hands regularly
  • Change and wash your washable face covering daily
  • Avoid wearing it on your neck or forehead. 
  • Do not share with someone else to use.
  • If single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle.
  • If the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Practice physical distancing wherever possible; do not rely on your face covering to solely protect you. 
  • Watch this BBC video on How to wear a face covering

When do I wear a face covering? 

From 7 September 2020, staff and students at York St John University are expected to wear face coverings inside university buildings, and anywhere outside on campus where it is difficult to maintain 2 metre distance.

In England, you must by law wear a face covering in the following settings:

  • Public Transport.
  • Indoor transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • Shops and supermarkets (places which are open to the public and that wholly or mainly offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • Indoor shopping centres
  • Banks, building societies, and post offices (including credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)
  • Other specified locations 

It is likely that the settings will change over time and you should check the list regularly.

You are expected to wear a face covering immediately before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave.

It also is strongly advised to wear a face covering:

  • In other enclosed public spaces where physical distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Where physical distancing at 2m cannot be achieved.
  • Face to face interactions including teaching/lectures and tutorials where 2m physical distancing cannot be achieved.

When you do not need to wear a face covering

In settings where face coverings are required, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to as described below as part of current Government Guidance.  This includes:

  • Young children under the age of 11. (Public Health England do not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
  • If putting on, wearing, or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress.
  • If you are travelling with or aiding someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.  
  • To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others.
  • To eat or drink.
  • To take medication.
  • If a police officer or other official requests that you remove your face covering.

There are also scenarios when individuals are permitted to remove a face covering when requested:

  • if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
  • If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification.
  • If asked to do so by University staff and members of Security Services in support of their undertakings.

Be considerate and kind

It must be noted that a face covering can be a barrier to communication for some students and staff and this should be considered when in a University setting that has a diverse population. Be aware that not everyone will hear or understand you while wearing a face covering, especially deaf and hard of hearing people. Please be considerate and please be kind. 

If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.  Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a face covering to help with communication.  Individuals should move away to a safe physical distance of at least 2 metres before removing their face covering to then commence in conversation. However, do not remove your face covering without checking that it is OK with the other person.

It is all about respecting each other and at YSJU, focusing on dignity and respect is our approach.   


Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law. You can download exemption cards from the NHS Vale of York CCG or from the website.

Government enforcement measures for failing to comply with this law 

Measures can be taken if people do not comply with this law without a valid exemption. Under the Government’s rules, individuals who do not wear a face covering (e.g. public transport, supermarkets and shops etc) will face a fine on the spot of up to £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days) via Police and Transport for London Officers who have been granted enforcement powers. 

The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual.

Treating your face covering like your underwear

Some people have said you should think of your face covering like your underwear - and wear a clean one every day.

That doesn't mean you need to rush out and buy dozens of them, but it's a good idea to perhaps have more than one. That way you can wear a clean one while the other is in the wash.

And as for the disposable ones, they are usually sold in large numbers - Boots, for example, has a multipack of 80. That should be more than enough for a few weeks.

But please remember a face covering is not substitute for physical distancing or increased hand hygiene. 

Do's and Don’ts

Do ensure your mask fits snugly: The purpose of a face covering is to block potentially infected particles from being spread around so it is important that it fits snugly to your face with as fewer gaps as possible. The better the fit, the better the protection.

Do learn the proper way to put on (and remove) your mask: As important as it is to wear a face covering, it is equally important to ensure you’re doing it properly. We have a full instruction on how to put on and take off your mask to minimise the risk of spreading any germs while doing so below.

Do wash your hands before and after putting it on or taking it off: Face coverings can help to protect the respiratory system but that does not mean that the outside of them cannot carry potentially harmful germs. Whenever you have touched your mask or covering (to put it on, adjust it, or take it off), be sure to wash your hands well or use a hand sanitiser gel.

Do clean your mask properly after use: Cleaning a washable face covering should be fairly simple, just follow the washing instructions. It is ok to put in the wash with other items.

Do continue to practice physical distancing even when wearing a mask: While masks offer a certain level of protection, they do not guarantee to stop the spread of coronavirus. Similarly, if you were to only practice physical distancing but without a mask then you would still only have a certain level of protection. Doing the two things together (wearing a face mask and staying at least 2 metre apart) can increase the effectiveness.


Don’t leave your home if you feel unwell: Wearing a face covering while unwell will not protect others. Stay at home and book a test.

Don’t wear your mask below the nose: A practice that seems to be appearing a lot is people wearing the mask only over their mouth. Coronavirus droplets can be transmitted through the nose and eyes as well, so while masks do not protect your eyes, it is important to make sure yours is covering your nose and mouth.

Don’t pull your mask down to eat and drink: When wearing a face mask, the area of skin on your neck is exposed to the outside world and therefore, to harmful droplets. If you pull your mask down below your chin, then the inside of the mask could pick up these droplets, and you could then inhale them when you pull the mask back into place. If you do need to remove your mask for any reason (like eating or drinking), then you should always remove it completely, via the proper method.

Don’t wear a mask that is damaged: Before putting on a face mask, you should always first check that it doesn’t have any tears or other signs of damage. If it does, then you should avoid wearing it because it may not be offering the protection you think it does. Try having more than one mask so that you can rotate them while cleaning one, and so that you have a spare in case one becomes damaged.

Don’t let a face mask give you a false sense of security: Face masks or coverings can help you slow the spread of coronavirus by protecting the respiratory system and preventing infecting droplets from being passed from one person to another. However, they do not 100% guarantee this. Don’t let wearing a mask make you forget to do other important safety measures like keeping your distance, avoiding touching your face and washing your hands thoroughly or using a hand sanitiser gel.

Don’t share face coverings: It is not recommended sharing your face covering with another person due to the high potential of infection.


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