COVID-19 Update: Information and resources can be found here.

Masking Policy

UT Southwestern has a required masking policy at all of our locations.

How to Wear Masks Correctly

The mask must cover your nose, mouth, and chin as illustrated below. If you're wearing a surgical mask, the blue side faces out while the white side is towards your face.

An illustration showing the correct way to wear a mask

In Clinical Settings

  • All employees working in clinical areas – both inpatient and outpatient – must wear an isolation/procedure mask at all times.
  • Masks will be available at all entrances where there is a screener and/or at the department level.
  • If you own a cloth mask or cloth face covering, please wear it to work and into the building, but change into a hospital-issued mask upon screening.
  • To conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), please make every effort to use that same mask throughout your shift; you should only change your mask if it becomes moist or soiled/contaminated.
  • Discard the used mask as you leave the building.
  • Patients and visitors in clinical settings must wear isolation masks upon entering the building and/or in public areas.
  • Outpatients and visitors must bring their own mask or face covering and will be provided an isolation mask if they do not have one.
  • Hospital inpatients may remove their mask when alone in their own patient room. They are encouraged to put on their mask when someone enters their room. If a patient chooses not to or is unable to wear a mask, staff may wear face shields as an additional layer of protection for both the staff and the patient. Patients must wear a mask when in hallways or other public spaces.

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In Research Settings

  • Everyone in research facilities must wear face masks or cloth face coverings in any space that can reasonably be expected to be shared. This includes laboratories, conference rooms, restrooms, food service areas, break rooms, elevators, and hallways. Even when social distancing of at least 6 feet is possible, masks must still be worn.
  • Standard laboratory safety practices must also be followed at all times in wet-bench laboratories, including wearing gloves, safety glasses, and lab coats.

In Nonclinical Settings

  • All employees in nonclinical settings must wear cloth face coverings or masks. We will provide a cloth mask to everyone who needs one, however we encourage you to bring one from home when possible, to help us conserve PPE.
  • Cloth masks or face coverings must be worn anytime you are unable to maintain safe social distancing in all public spaces, including restrooms, hallways, elevators, and meeting rooms, for example.
  • If you wear your own cloth face covering, please wash it on a regular basis. The cloth masks we provide are not washable and we will only be providing each person one mask per week.
  • If you have a private office, you may remove your mask while you are in your office alone. If you work in a cubicle, you may remove your mask, as long as you can maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
  • Across campus, masks are required in all outdoor spaces whenever social distancing cannot be maintained. Given most indoor and outdoor spaces on our campus can become crowded at times, employees are expected to carry a mask with them at all times.

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Definitions

Cloth Face Covering or Mask
Cloth face coverings and cloth masks must have more than one layer of fabric and must meet CDC guidelines. The use of cloth face coverings and masks is intended to provide a comfortable physical barrier to prevent transmission of any respiratory droplets. Masks may not have an exhalation valve.
Isolation or Procedure Mask
Isolation or procedure masks meet Level 1 standards for infection prevention and control and are an ideal physical barrier for patient encounters and exams, visualizations, or dry, short procedures that do not produce fluid or spray.

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FAQs

Does the masking policy apply to every member of the workforce anywhere at UTSW?

Yes. This policy applies to all employees working in buildings or areas where clinical care is provided, when walking through common areas in those same buildings, and when using shared transportation to travel between buildings. Employees who work in alternate, administrative, or research settings or buildings with both clinical and nonclinical offices (Bass, etc.) must wear a cloth mask or face covering.

Are there any limits on what I can use for a cloth mask or cloth face covering?

Cloth masks and face coverings must meet CDC guidelines:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
  • Are secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Coverings must be consistent with UT Southwestern dress and uniform guidelines and must not include language or images that can be considered offensive or threatening.

Should contractors, consultants, and other nonemployees working on campus wear face masks?

Yes. Everyone on UTSW property must wear a cloth mask or face covering that meets the definitions and requirements above, i.e. no exhalation valves and must have multiple layers. If someone arrives on UTSW property without a mask or face covering, their host must provide them one to wear.

Should all patients be wearing masks?

Yes. All patients entering UTSW clinical areas must wear their own cloth mask or face covering for their protection and the safety of other patients and health care providers. If patients arrive without a face covering, one will be provided to them.  

How can I drink safely when I am supposed to wear a face mask?

To do so safely, please ensure you are six feet away from others, perform hand hygiene, remove the mask, drink, and then replace your face mask. Always perform hand hygiene when replacing your mask. Do NOT move your face mask down to your chin or neck to drink as this can lead to self-contamination.

How do I handle the mask when I’m ready to eat or drink during a break?

  1. Perform hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Prepare a clean surface with a paper towel or paper bag.
  3. Remove the face mask by holding the strings/elastic or untying the ties and carefully removing mask from face.
  4. Store mask carefully in paper towel or paper bag to avoid contamination of other surfaces.
  5. Perform hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

After you have finished eating or drinking, take the following steps to replace the mask:

  1. Perform hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Don mask carefully, ensuring clean side is to your face, taking care to avoid touching face or eyes.
  3. Perform hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

If I work in the clinical setting and need to leave the facility and come back later in my shift, what should I do?

Every effort must be made to limit exit and entry to the facility during your shift to preserve supplies of PPE. If you leave the facility, your mask must be discarded and a new one obtained upon reentry. You must wear your own cloth mask or face covering if you are unable to maintain proper social distancing while outside the clinical setting.

Can staff gather in break rooms and other places to eat and relax, and if so, should they leave their masks on?

Please adhere to the same principles of social distancing when together in break rooms, conference rooms, or other spaces. Maintain at least six feet of separation from your colleagues and take appropriate precautions involving hand hygiene and not touching your face. Masks can be taken off in such areas for eating and drinking as long as social distancing is maintained. It is important to limit the number of people in a break room, with no more than five gathered at a time.

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