Masking Policy

UT Southwestern’s top priority throughout the pandemic has been – and continues to be – the safety of our campus community and our patients. We will continue to strongly encourage – but no longer require – the wearing of masks by students, faculty, staff, and guests in nonclinical areas of our campus in accordance with Executive Order No. GA-36 issued Tuesday, May 18, by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Wearing a mask is still required within William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital and all other clinical facilities.

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.
  • Masks may be removed only while eating and drinking in appropriate break areas and as long as social distancing is maintained.

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In Research Settings

  • Everyone in research laboratories and facilities are strongly encouraged to wear face masks or cloth face coverings and maintain physical distancing.
  • 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 are strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear cloth face coverings or masks.
  • Across campus, masks are required in all clinical spaces.
  • We will provide a mask to everyone who needs one; however, we encourage you to bring one from home when possible to help us conserve PPE.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed on a regular basis.

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

Yes. This policy applies to all employees in clinical settings.

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, if working in a clinical space. Everyone on UTSW property in our clinical facilities 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.

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 physical 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. It is important to limit the number of people in a break room and maintain physical distancing.

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