Non-Medical Masks

    It has been recognized by Public Health authorities around the world that the proper use of non-medical masks (NMM) can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Wearing such masks is considered part of our own personal preventive measures we should be taking to do our part in keeping everyone safe and healthy.  A mask acts as a barrier. It reduces the chance of spreading respiratory droplets to others and prevents droplets from landing on surfaces when you cough, sneeze, talk, sing or laugh. 

    Updated Thursday, February 11, 2021, the wearing of non-medical masks is mandatory inside all buildings across campus.. The only exceptions include while eating (with appropriate physical distancing protocols respected) and while employees are alone in their office or students are alone within their residence rooms.  The use of non-medical masks is required outside if physical distancing cannot be assured.

    There are employees on campus whose workstation may be outside or in an area otherwise open to other employees.  In these situations, a hazard assessment will be conducted, and an alternate control may be approved, and their "mask-free zone" will be identified as such.

    NMMs are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) because their purpose is not to protect the wearer, but rather the people near the wearer.  The wearing of NMMs is an additional personal practice that can help to prevent the infectious respiratory droplets of an unknowingly-infected person from coming into contact with other people.  This is known as source control - stop the hazard at the source!

    NEW INFORMATION!! Wearing Masks in Winter
    (updated January 5, 2021)

    Cold Weather

    • In cold weather, masks may become wet from breathing, snow, or other precipitation. Change a mask when it becomes wet. A wet mask is harder to breathe through, is less efficient at filtering, and vents more around the edges of the mask. It is especially important to have one or more replacement masks during cold weather. If your reusable mask becomes wet, put it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.
    • Scarves and other headwear such as ski masks and balaclavas used for warmth are usually made of loosely knit fabrics that are not suitable for use as masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission. They can be worn over a mask.
    • If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or has a nose wire to help reduce fogging. Consider using an antifogging spray that is made for eyeglasses.

    (Source CDC)

    CBC Article with Helpful Information about Wearing Masks in Winter

    Snowflake photos, royalty-free images, graphics, vectors & videos | Adobe  StockSnowflake photos, royalty-free images, graphics, vectors & videos | Adobe  StockSnowflake photos, royalty-free images, graphics, vectors & videos | Adobe  Stock



    (source:  Nova Scotia Government Facebook Page)


    Face shields

    Face shields are not a replacement for non-medical masks.  They simply to not provide the protection that masks do in keeping our droplets to ourselves.  There are ongoing discussions about specific, controlled situations where face shields may be considered as an alternative when wearing masks is not suitable, e.g. some teaching environments.  If you have a specific situation where this might be appropriate, please consult with your supervisor to seek clarification.  Here is some information about how to care for the StFX-issued face shields: 

    Scotia Shields Cleaning Instructions

    Scotia Shields Specification Sheet


    It is important that non-medical masks or cloth face coverings fit well and are worn safely.  Our advice below is based on Health Canada and Nova Scotia Health Authority advice, follow the links below to visit their webpages for more information.  

    Health Canada non-medical mask information

    Nova Scotia Health Authority non-medical mask information


    Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering

    When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of their own infectious respiratory droplets.

    Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:

    • allow for easy breathing
    • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
    • maintain their shape after washing and drying
    • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
    • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
    • be made of at least three layers
      - two layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
      - the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
    • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping

    Non-medical masks or face coverings should:

    • not be shared with others
    • not impair vision or interfere with tasks
    • not be placed on children under the age of 2 years
    • not be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
    • not be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
    • not be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
    • not be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing

    Masks with exhalation valves are not allowed, because they do not protect others from COVID-19 and do not limit the spread of the virus.

    Plastic "mouth shield" is NOT a Non-Medical Mask.


    Neck gaiters (neck warmers)

    Neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers) aren't recommended because they:

    • aren't well secured to the head or ears, and are likely to move or slip out of place

    • are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself

    If a neck gaiter must be used as a face covering:

    • it should be folded to provide at least 3 layers of fabric and should include a filter or filter fabric added between layers

    • lift it away from your face, especially when taking it off

    • wash your hands or use alcohol based hand sanitizer anytime you need to adjust it, especially when putting it on and taking it off


    • DO wear a non-medical mask or face covering to protect others.
    • DO ensure the mask is made of at least three layers of tightly woven fabric.
    • DO inspect the mask for tears or holes.
    • DO ensure the mask or face covering is clean and dry.
    • DO wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching the mask or face covering.
    • DO use the ear loops or ties to put on and remove the mask.
    • DO ensure your nose and mouth are fully covered.
    • DO replace and launder your mask whenever is becomes damp or dirty.
    • DO wash your mask with hot, soapy water and let it dry completely before wearing it again.
    • DO store re-usable masks in a clean paper bag until you wear it again.  Fold the mask in half so the outside surfaces touch each other.
    • DO discard masks that cannot be washed in a plastic lined garbage bin after use.
    • DO mark the outside of the mask in some way, if needed, so you can easily identify which side is the outside of the mask and handle it accordingly.


    • DON’T reuse masks that are moist, dirty or damaged.
    • DON’T wear a loose mask.
    • DON’T touch the mask while wearing it.
    • DON’T remove the mask to talk to someone.
    • DON’T share your mask.
    • DON’T leave your used mask within the reach of others.

    Remember, wearing a non-medical mask or face covering alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must also wash your hands often, practice physical distancing and stay home if you are sick.

    How to put on a non-medical mask or face covering

    1. Ensure the face covering is clean and dry.
    2. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask.
      • If none is available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    3. Ensure your hair is away from your face.
    4. Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure to your head or ears with its ties or elastics.
      • Adjust if needed to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered.
    5. The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
    6. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after adjusting your mask.

    While wearing a non-medical mask, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

    How to remove a non-medical mask or face covering

    1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
      • If none is available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    2. Remove the face covering by un-tying it or removing the loops from your ears.
      • Avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it.
    3. Store the face covering in a paper bag, envelope, or something that does not retain moisture if you will be wearing it again.
    4. After removing the face covering, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

    Cleaning and disposing of non-medical masks and face coverings

    Cloth masks or face coverings should be changed and cleaned if they become damp or soiled. You can wash your cloth mask by:

    • putting it directly into the washing machine, using a hot cycle, and then dry thoroughly
    • washing it thoroughly by hand if a washing machine is not available, using soap and warm/hot water
      • allow it to dry completely before wearing it again

    Non-medical masks that cannot be washed should be disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin, and replaced as soon as they get damp, soiled or crumpled.

    It is important to remember the following when using non-medical masks and face coverings:

    • masks with an exhalation valve do not protect others
    • never share your non-medical mask or face covering with someone else
    • do not handle a non-medical mask or face covering belonging to someone else
    • do not allow other people to handle or touch your non-medical mask or face covering


    Environmental considerations

    Most disposable and single-use masks are mostly made of plastic. Growing quantities of disposable and single-use masks are being discarded in the regular garbage as there's little to no opportunity for recycling. This increases the amount of:

    • unrecycled waste going to landfills
    • plastic pollution in the environment or in water sources

    By choosing reusable masks and face coverings, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also reducing your environmental impact.

    If you must use a disposable mask, always make sure that you dispose of it properly in a garbage container.



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