Non-medical masks at UBC

As part of UBC’s commitment to the health and safety of our community, and the responsibility we all share in preventing the potential for COVID-19, students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to follow UBC’s COVID-19 Campus Rules when on our campuses. These rules include the requirement to wear non-medical masks in common indoor spaces.

Common indoor spaces include hallways, stairways, building entryways, washrooms, common areas in residences and other high-traffic areas (except as set out in an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan).

The requirement to wear non-medical masks indoors recognizes that transmission is reduced when face masks are worn in conjunction with physical distancing and other safety practices. For more information, including details about exceptions, please refer to the COVID-19 Campus Rules and FAQs below.

How to wear a non-medical mask

Cleaning non-medical masks

Homemade or cloth masks should be cleaned and changed often:

  • To clean a homemade cloth mask, wash it using the directions on the original material (for example, if the mask was made from t-shirt material, follow the washing instructions on the t-shirt tag) but in general, warmer water is better. Dry the mask completely (in the dryer using a warm/hot setting if possible).
  • Do not shake dirty masks to minimize spreading germs and particles through the air. If dirty cloth masks have been in contact with someone who is sick they can still be washed with other people’s laundry.
  • Any damage, fabric break down, or change in fit will reduce the already limited protection of cloth masks.

More information about masks can be found on the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control website.

Considerations when wearing a mask

  • Make sure you know how to wear your mask. Follow manufacturers or industry specifications and directions.
  • Don’t wear masks below the nose or chin. This can increase the risk of exposure.
  • Keep your mask clean and dry. If it gets wet, it is less effective at preventing the spread of droplets.
  • Change masks as necessary. You may need several masks available as they build up moisture during the day and become less effective. If your mask becomes wet, soiled or damaged replace it immediately.
  • Make sure you know how to clean your mask. Wash cloth masks every day using the warmest water setting. Store in a clean, dry place to prevent contamination. Disposable masks cannot be laundered.
  • Practice good hygiene even if you’re wearing a mask. Don’t remove your mask to cough or sneeze. After coughing or sneezing, wash your hands. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Considerations when wearing a mask are recommended by WorkSafeBC. For more information, please visit WorkSafeBC.


These FAQ’s attempt to summarize information.  To the extent there is any conflict between the information in this FAQ and the COVID-19 Campus Rules, or a COVID-19 Safety Plan, the Campus Rules or Safety Plan will take precedence.

Indoor mask requirement

  • Do I need to wear a mask indoors at UBC?
    • All students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear non-medical masks (defined within the COVID-19 Campus Rules) in common indoor spaces on our campuses.
  • What is an appropriate mask?
    • Please see the below section of this FAQ below.
  • Who is covered by the requirement to wear a non-medical mask?
    • All campus users in common indoor spaces are required to wear a non-medical masks including students, faculty, staff, contractors, service providers and visitors.
  • How long will the requirement to wear a non-medical mask be in place?
    • This requirement will be in place until further notice. We are constantly reviewing our policies and will make changes as required.
  • How will the non-medical mask requirement be enforced?
    • Enforcement measures will focus primarily on an educational approach and enforcement will depend on the individual’s relationship with the university, the nature of an incident, the place in which it occurred, and the impact on others in that place. We have included a guide to assist UBC community members in approaching situations in a respectful way: Respectful Engagement: Non-Medical Masks and Following the Campus Rules
  • Will there be any penalties for non-compliance with the non-medical mask requirement?
    • Failure to comply with this policy and the other COVID-19 Campus Rules could result (depending on your relationship to UBC) in disciplinary action, or being restricted from UBC property, as outlined in the COVID-19 Campus Rules.
  • Do COVID-19 Safety Plans need to be updated to reflect the required use of non-medical masks?
    • Yes, some changes will be required to local safety plans to reflect this requirement and to specify approved exceptions. You can find supporting documents and templates here. Contact the owner of your COVID-19 Safety Plan (Department Head, Managing Director, etc.) for more information.


  • Are there any exceptions to the requirement for use of non-medical masks (e.g. medical, disability or certain activities)?
    • Certain activities and individuals, including individuals with a medical condition or disability that inhibits their ability to wear a mask, are exempt from this policy. Please refer to Attachment A in the COVID-19 Campus Rules for the full list of exceptions.
  • How does the non-medical mask requirement affect my use of other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (e.g. face shield/respirator)?
    • PPE requirements as outlined in existing COVID-19 Safety Plans and Safe Working Procedures take precedence over the non-medical mask requirements.
    • Non-medical masks will must be worn in common areas such as hallways, stairways, etc.
  • Does the non-medical mask requirement apply to contractors working on campus?
    • Contractors should seek direction from their UBC contact regarding the application of the COVID-19 Campus Rules to their specific work site. In certain secure work sites, masks may not be required provided all other provincial requirements are followed.
    • Contractors inside a UBC building must wear non-medical masks in common/shared spaces.
  • If I wear a niqab or burqa do I still need to wear a mask?
    • If you wear a religious garment made of fitted fabric that covers the nose and mouth, you do not have to wear an additional mask or face covering.


  • Will UBC be providing non-medical masks?
    • Faculty/staff – All faculty and staff working on campus will be provided with non-medical masks by their portfolio/Faculty.
    • Graduate Students/Postdoctoral Fellows – All graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working on campus will be provided with non-medical masks by their portfolio/Faculty.
    • Students – Students living in residence, or attending in-person classes on campus will be provided with one branded non-medical masks by their Faculty.
    • Visitors – Contractors, service providers and other visitors are required to provide their own non-medical masks.
  • What other types of face covering are acceptable?
    • The minimum acceptable standards for non-medical masks are outlined in the COVID-19 Campus Rules as follows: An appropriate mask must have three layers of tightly woven fabric (cotton or linen), or be a commercially produced disposable non-medical mask, and securely fit, without gaping, over the nose and mouth with ties or ear loops.
    • For more information on acceptable masks please see the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control website.
  • Is the reusable, non-medical mask that was issued to me by UBC considered acceptable? 
    • Yes. Continuing to wear the first mask issued is acceptable for those individuals who have them. The change in recommendation from two layers to three is to ensure that future procurement will be in line with public health recommendations. Be sure to follow the directions issued by the manufacturer on laundering or replacing the mask as required.
  • Does wearing a plastic face shield alone comply with this policy?
    • No, the BC Centre for Disease Control does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks.
    • In situations where faculty and staff are unable to wear a mask, an approved face shield can be considered if written into an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan. Some things to consider:
      • The face shield should not replace other prevention measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, barriers, and non-medical masks for those who can wear them.
      • When communicating using lip-reading, when visual facial cues are essential, or when people may be unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, a face shield may be an alternative to no mask.
      • Some face shields may provide better protection than others. When needed, use face shields that wrap around your face and extend below the chin as well as hooded face shields.
      • Non-medical clear masks that cover the nose and mouth are another option when visual communication is necessary. These options have not been widely assessed for their effectiveness.
    • Visit the BCCDC site to learn more about choosing an appropriate alternative to non-medical masks, contact or consult with your health care provider to discuss suitable options.
  • Can I make my own mask?
  • What is the standard/guideline for purchasing non-medical masks?
    • UBC recommends using disposable commercially available non-medical masks until a supply of high-quality sustainable cloth masks is sourced and can be distributed on campus.  Consistent with UBC’s commitment to sustainability, community members are encouraged to consider eco-friendly options.
  • How do I clean my mask?
      • Manufacturer’s guidance for mask cleaning should be followed. Additional guidance can be found above or at BCCDC.

Affected areas/locations

  • Do I need to wear a mask in shared office space?
    • Non-medical masks are required in shared office space, unless otherwise stated in your approved COVID-19 Safety Plan. Please note COVID-19 Safety Plans will require approved updates to reflect this policy.
  • Do I need to wear a mask in my personal office?
    • Non-medical masks are not required when working in a sole occupant office or enclosed room.
  • Do I need to wear a mask in my personal work cubicle?
    • Non-medical masks are required in your personal work cubicle, unless otherwise stated in your approved COVID-19 Safety Plan. Provided other conditions are met (such as physical distancing rules) it is likely that a mask will not be required while seated at your personal work cubicle.  Please note COVID-19 Safety Plans will require approved updates to reflect this policy.
  • Do I need to wear a mask if I am the only person working in a building/worksite?
    • Non-medical masks are not required if you are the only person working in a building/worksite.
  • Does the non-medical mask requirement apply to indoor spaces on campus that are not owned or operated by UBC?
    • When in buildings that are not owned or operated by UBC you should follow local safety guidance.
    • Examples of indoor spaces that are not controlled by UBC are:
      • AMS Nest
      • Commercial spaces rented by third parties such as the Shoppers Drug Mart on University Boulevard
      • Offices in Wesbrook Village
      • The Technology Enterprise Facilities (i.e. Gerald McGavin Building, Donald Rix Building, TEF 3) and TRIUMF
    • Examples of indoor spaces not located on main UBC campuses that are controlled by UBC and subject to the non-medical mask requirement are:
      • UBC Robson Square
      • The UBC Learning Exchange
  • Are UBC workplaces located in hospitals or healthcare facilities included in the non-medical mask requirement?
    • Requirements in worksites located in hospitals or healthcare facilities may vary depending on a number of factors. Department/Institute heads of such worksites should check with their local health authority before implementing a requirement to wear non-medical masks.
    • Employees who are based in these worksites should check with their line manager about local requirements.
  • Can I take my mask off for eating and drinking?
    • Masks may be removed when consuming food or beverages while seated in designated dining areas within UBC dining facilities. Physical distancing requirements must be met when not within one’s social “bubble”.
  • In what areas of a student residence building does the non-medical mask requirement apply?
  • Do students need to wear a mask while in class?
    • A new (May 2, 2021) Provincial Health Order is in place which mandates that students must wear a non-medical mask at all times within classrooms. The mask requirement for students is in addition to the physical distancing already in place in classrooms. Note: if an employee is taking a course or a class; they become a ‘student’ in this regard and should also wear a mask.
  • Does the new order mean that instructors teaching classes have to wear masks too?
    • UBC has asked Public Health to verify this, and they have said ‘no, as long as they can maintain physical distance from others’.