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Face Coverings: Q&A

When did the protocol go into effect and under what level?

The protocol went into effect Aug. 1, 2020, under Level 3 and will remain in effect until further notice. 

Will students and employees receive face coverings when they return to campus?
JacksRBack Replacement Masks

Yes. The university has received additional sets of face coverings for students and employees. They are the same face coverings that were provided in the JacksRBack kits distributed before the fall semester started.

Distribution of the face coverings will begin the week of Jan. 4, 2021. Employees will have their face coverings delivered to their building or department in a similar fashion to the JacksRBack kit distribution in the fall.

Students living on-campus will obtain their new set of face coverings from their community assistant after returning from break.

Students living off-campus will be able to pick up a new set of face coverings at Info Exchange located in the University Student Union, beginning Monday. You must have your student ID scanned to receive a set of face coverings.

If you are a student not on the Brookings campus, we are working on mailing face coverings to your location.

What type of face covering is appropriate?

Types of face coverings can include a paper or disposable mask, a cloth mask (two are being provided in JacksRBack kits), a neck gaiter, a scarf or a bandanna. A proper face covering needs to consist of multiple layers of fabric and cover the individual’s nose and mouth completely. The covering should not be overly tight or restrictive.

Any mask that incorporates a valve that is designated to facilitate easy exhaling, mesh masks or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material or vents are not sufficient face coverings because they allow droplets to be released.

Face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing, but are essential in situations when it is difficult maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.

How will face coverings slow the spread of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 virus is mostly spread by respiratory droplets through close contact between people when they talk, cough or sneeze. Many people with COVID-19 do not show symptoms but can still spread the virus to others, especially when they have had prolonged exposure with another person.

The CDC recommends people should wear a face covering in public to limit the spread of respiratory droplets and help to protect people around you in case you are infected and do not know it.

Do students need to wear face coverings in their res halls?

A student’s room or apartment/suite in a Department of Housing and Residential Life facility is considered a private area and the protocol does not govern the use of face coverings in those spaces. Students will be required to wear face coverings in all common areas of Department of Housing and Residential Life facilities.

Where will face coverings be required?

Under Level 3 of the BOR protocol, face coverings will be required in all public indoor facilities. This includes entries into buildings, hallways, classrooms and common areas where people may gather.

How does the face covering protocol apply to dining areas on campus?

Under Level 3, employees and students will be required to wear face coverings in all dining services areas. Individuals who remain in the area to eat will be able to remove face coverings while eating as tables are spaced appropriately for physical distancing.

Are faculty and staff required to wear face coverings in classrooms where plastic shields in place?

Yes. The plastic shield does not replace the requirement for a face covering. The plastic shields are an additional safety item.

A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer. There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control. Therefore, CDC does not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for masks.

What is the guidance when a face shield must be used instead of a face covering? 

Wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people for example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired. Here are some considerations for individuals who must wear a face shield instead of a mask;

Although evidence on face shields is limited, the available data suggest that the following face shields may provide better source control than others:
  • Face shields that wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin.
  • Hooded face shields.
Face shield wearers should wash their hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when removing it. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use and disposed of according to manufacturer instructions.


The CDC recently updated the language and added the line. “Here are some considerations for individuals who must wear a face shield instead of a mask:”

Here are some examples that fit the criteria of Face shields that may provide better source control than others. The first two are better than the third but the first one is extremely expensive. Humanity ShieldMIT COVID Face Shield and Amazon.

  • Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use according to manufacturer instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions.
Are employees required to wear face coverings in their offices?

Employees who have their own enclosed office space are not required to wear a face covering when working alone in their office. Under SDBOR protocol Level 3, factors that would require an employee to wear a face covering in their own enclosed office space would be:

  • Meeting with a visitor, student or another employee;
  • Where two or more employees share the enclosed space; and
  • Employees who work in a cubical system, taking into account physical distancing between occupied cubicles and room ventilation.

Factors leading to a high recommendation that an employee wear a face covering in their own enclosed office space would be when employees work in a cubical system, taking into account room ventilation and physical distancing between occupied cubicles.

Do you have to wear face covering when walking outside on campus?

Under Level 3, students and employees are not required to wear face coverings while walking outside on campus. However, everyone is encouraged to wear them in high-traffic areas of campus and where social distancing is impossible.

What if an employee, student or visitor has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering?

Nothing contained herein should be construed to limit or otherwise infringe upon an individual’s right to request an accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or other applicable law. Students who need accommodations and can provide the necessary medical information are encouraged to contact Nancy Hartenhoff-Crooks to complete the appropriate request for accommodation. Employees and visitors may do the same through Human Resources.

Are there accommodations from wearing face coverings for religious reasons?

South Dakota State University may require employees to wear protective gear (for example, masks and gloves) and observe infection control practices (for example, regular hand-washing and social distancing protocols). However, where an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., non-latex gloves, modified face masks for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), or a religious accommodation under Title VII (such as modified equipment due to religious garb), the university should discuss the request and provide the modification or an alternative if feasible and not an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business under the ADA or Title VII.

if they would like to request a special accommodation, students should contact the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management while employees should contact Human Resources.

Do students and employees have to wear a face covering off campus?

Students and employees who are off campus on official university business are required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, per the policy.

Do I have to wear a face covering when using a state vehicle, campus utility vehicle or campus-owned electric cart?

Students and employees who travel in a state vehicle, use a campus utility vehicle or campus-owned electric car are required to wear a face covering if more than one person is in the vehicle.

What is the penalty for an employee or student who refuses to wear a face covering?

There are people who may not be able to wear the same type of face coverings for a variety of reasons, or there may be a lawful exception to face coverings use, and you may not be able to tell why just by looking at a person.

First, individuals will be asked to comply with the protocol by an SDSU official and directed to resources to obtain a cloth face covering. If an individual fails to respond, the individual will be asked to leave the area and the appropriate SDSU conduct process will be invoked, depending on the individual’s status as a student, employee or visitor.

Where do I learn about face coverings?

The CDC website has a number of available resources, including a site dedicated to Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19.

How often should someone clean or wash their face coverings?

Your face covering should be washed after each use. CDC guidance indicates that this is at least daily. You can include your face covering with your regular laundry or wash them by hand.

The CDC provides guidance for How to Wash Cloth Face Coverings on its website.

How do I correctly wear my face covering?

Wash your hands before putting on your face covering; Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin;

  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face;
  • Make sure you can breathe easily;
  • When taking your face covering off, handle only by the ear loops or ties, fold the outside corners together, and place the face covering in the washing machine; and Face coverings can be stored in a clean paper bag.

More information is available on the CDC website on How to Wear Cloth Face Coverings.

Is there a list of exemptions from when a student, employee or visitor does not have to wear a face covering while on campus?

Face coverings exemptions will be allowed under the following scenarios:

• When alone in a private office or enclosed study area;

• When inside campus residence hall rooms or apartments; however, face coverings are still required in common areas such as hallways, common restrooms and when visiting other rooms;

• Individuals exercising, training, or practicing in the Miller Wellness Center and Intercollegiate Athletic facilities, except as required for conference compliance, may remove the cloth face covering while under physical exertion or in other situations where wearing a mask compromises their safety and welfare;

• Persons engaged in other activities that make wearing a face covering impractical, such as playing an instrument, singing, performing in a theater production, eating and/or drinking;

• In instances or spaces (such as welding labs, nursing labs, etc.) in which other requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) make it either impractical or unsafe to wear an additional face covering;

• When alone in a state vehicle or utility vehicle; and

• Children under the age of five and those who cannot physically remove a face covering without assistance, or those who have requested and received a necessary accommodation are not required to wear face coverings. All children between the ages of two and four, however, are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Children under the age of two should not wear a face covering.

Are individuals or groups who reserve and use University facilities required to comply with the face covering protocols?

Yes. Individuals or groups who reserve and use University facilities are required to comply with the face covering protocols.

The university is currently until Level 3 and will remain in effect until further notice. Level 3 requires face coverings in all public indoor spaces on campus.