Masks or face coverings


Last updated: April 20, 2022


Masks or face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces by everyone age 5 and older. No matter what type of mask is worn, other health protection measures must be followed to limit the spread of COVID-19. These include getting vaccinated if able, staying home when sick, frequent hand hygiene, following our institution-wide COVID-19 Safety plans and Campus Rules.

In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators may provide better protection when worn properly. UBC strongly recommends the use of medical masks as a face covering when possible, and will require masks to be worn in public indoor spaces on both campuses, until the end of the 2022 Summer Session on June 30, 2022. Learn more.

Individuals are free to wear any type of mask in our community. All students, faculty and staff need to be respectful of everyone’s personal choices.

General guidance for wearing your mask

  • The mask should be held snugly in place with ties or ear loops.
  • Masks that are uncomfortable and need frequent adjustment are less effective.
  • Respirators or masks with valves should not be used because they allow the breath of the wearer to escape, which could spread infectious particles to others.
  • Masks should only be used by one person and should never be shared.
  • Medical masks are not to be cleaned but may be reused until visibly dirty, damp or damaged.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands before putting on your mask and after taking it off.

Types of masks

There are several different types of masks that, when worn properly, help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Cloth Masks (Non-Medical Masks)

  • The effectiveness of cloth masks can vary based on many factors such as material, construction, fit and proper use. Few non-medical masks provide information about their filtration effectiveness. Some non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 similarly to medical masks and respirators if they:
    • fit well and effectively cover the nose and mouth with no gaps around the face, and
    • have multiple layers, including at least 2 layers of breathable tightly woven fabric, such as cotton, and
    • have an effective middle filter layer

Non-Medical Disposable Masks

  • Non-medical disposable masks often look like certified medical masks, but unlike certified medical masks, they do not adhere to any performance or filtration standards. To improve the fit of non-medical disposal masks, they can be folded, knotted, worn with a mask fitter, or worn with a cloth mask overtop.

 Medical Masks

  • A medical mask (aka surgical or procedure mask) must meet established performance standards in Canada. UBC strongly recommends the use of medical masks as a face covering when possible. Medical masks, like other face coverings, must fit comfortably over the mouth and nose with no gaps around the face. To improve the fit of medical masks, they can be folded, knotted, worn with a mask fitter, or worn with a cloth mask overtop.
  • There are different levels of medical masks that denote their minimum performance and filtration standards. In North America, ASTM F2100 Levels 1-3 are most common.

Respirators (N95s, KN95s, and CAN95s)

  • N95, KN95 and CAN95 respirators are tight fitting masks that can provide effective protection from airborne contaminants when worn correctly and consistently. Respirators work best when specifically tested to ensure an individual’s fit is correct – this is called a fit test. Fit tests are required by law when respirators are used in an occupational (workplace) setting, like research and healthcare. In public settings, fit tests are not required. A fit that is comfortable and does not require frequent adjustment is ideal. Because respirators are meant to provide a tight seal to the face, facial hair significantly decreases their effectiveness.
  • Some respirators have exhalation valves. Do not use these. Respirators with exhalation valves or vents allow infectious respiratory particles to spread outside the mask. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus.
  • To ensure that respirators have been approved in Canada, look for a TC-84A-####n number stamped on the mask, or for products marked as meeting the CSA Z94.4.1, GB 2626-2019, KMOEL–2017-64 or EN 149-2001 standards.

For further information on types of masks, visit the BCCDC website and Health Canada.

For further information on mask use, medical masks and respirators at UBC, please visit the COVID-19 Return to Campus FAQ.

Disposal of masks

Dispose of face masks responsibly by placing them in garbage bins. Do not litter the campus with face masks, or put them into other recycling bins such as paper, recyclable containers or food scraps, as this will contaminate the recycling and create a health risk.

At this time, UBC does not have access to a generally available disposable mask recycling program. An exception is if your department has a dedicated mask collection box — if so, check signage to ensure your face mask is accepted.