VIU Mask Protocol and FAQs

As of Wednesday, August 25, 2021, by order of the Provincial Health Officer, masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces throughout BC. At post-secondary institutions, this mask order will apply in all indoor public areas on campus, including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs and in spaces that are high traffic and/or require close proximity to others.

This temporary order will be reassessed as the BC vaccine card requirement is fully implemented in certain social and recreational settings. Read the order in full

Below are some frequently asked questions. If you have a question that is not here, please email safety@viu.ca

General

You are required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas on campus, including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs and in spaces that are high traffic and/or require close proximity to others.

As per the Public Health Order students can remove their masks in the following situations:

  1. if the face covering is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the student;
  2. while the student is consuming food or drink and while seated;
  3. while participating in physical activity organized by the post-secondary institution or at a fitness facility or sport facility;
  4. while communicating with a person for whom visual cues, facial expressions, lip-reading or lip movements are essential;
  5. if the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, for example while actively playing a wind instrument;
  6. if the student is behind a barrier separating the student from other persons, for example a divider or cubicle;
  7. if the student is in a room by themselves;
  8. if the student is in a post-secondary space and no other students, post- secondary staff persons or members of the public are present;
  9. if the student is delivering a presentation or lecture if (i) there is a distance of two metres separating the student delivering the presentation or lecture and students and other persons attending the presentation or lecture, or (ii) there is a physical barrier between the student delivering the lecture and the students and the persons attending the presentation or lecture.

BC’s Provincial Health Office introduced a temporary mask mandate to help mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in indoor settings.

No, provided there is a distance of two metres separating students and the instructor or there is a physical barrier between students and instructors.

Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to one or more of the following will need to request a mask exemption:  

  • People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments. 
  • People who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own. 
  • People who need to remove their masks to communicate due to a hearing impairment. 

If you have questions about the mask exemption, please visit our Student Exemption Form or contact your Human Resources Advisor. Students requesting a mask accommodation will need to complete the COVID-19 Student Mask Exemption Form. Individuals who demonstrate disregard for the Public Health Order regarding mandatory masks and who are not exempted for one of the above reasons, may be subject to disciplinary action under the VIU Student Code of Conduct or as a VIU employee.

Yes, each member of the campus community needs to follow safety protocols and take action to keep other members of our community safe. There are a number of reasons why individuals might not be wearing masks,  the university will provide exemptions for those with valid reasons and that have followed the VIU Mask Exemption Process. Individuals who demonstrate disregard for the Public Health Order and the VIU Mask Exemption Process, and put the well-being of others at risk, may be subject to disciplinary action under the VIU Student Code of Conduct or as a VIU employee.

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. 

  • Store your masks in a way that protects them from getting dirty or damaged (for example in a sealed and clean storage bag). 
  • Place in a dry area of your home or workplace. 
  • Identify or label mask storage bags so masks are not used by others accidentally. 
  • Place cloth masks directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine. Throw out the bag after you have used it to store used masks. 
  • Launder with other items using a hot cycle, and then dry thoroughly. 
  • Do not bleach, press, iron or steam. 
  • Inspect the mask prior to re-use to ensure it has maintained its shape after washing and drying. 
  • Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after handling a used mask.
  • When any mask or face covering becomes wet, soiled or damaged it must be replaced.
  • Consider the work task when selecting your face covering. For example, a long-duration task may require multiple face-covering changes to deal with moisture build-up. 

Yes. A reusable face covering is not considered personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Reusable Face Coverings: 

These include home-made or purchased reusable cloth masks. These are cloth masks typically made of a tightly woven fabric that helps prevent the spread of droplets from the wearer’s mouth. While these are helpful to reduce the risk of spreading germs to others, these will not protect the wearer against workplace exposures such as particles, vapours or gases, and must not be used in place of PPE such as a respirator. Quality, care and use of reusable face coverings may vary and generally are not standardized although there are recommendations for their quality, care and use

 

Disposable Face Coverings: 

Disposable masks are discarded between uses, so the wearer is not required to clean or care for them between uses. They may be labelled as “non-medical mask” or “not for medical use.” 

 

Medical Masks (PPE): 

Medical masks have been tested for efficacy and meet a quality standard. When used in conjunction with other PPE items such as eye protection or gown and gloves, these masks provide a barrier to splashes, saliva or spit droplets. When not used with other PPE, these masks help prevent the spread of droplets from the wearer’s mouth, but do not protect the wearer from exposure to the droplets of others. 

 

Respirators (e.g. N95 mask, cartridge respirator) (PPE): 

These are masks that filter out particulates or other contaminants in the air. They are tested and certified by recognized certification agencies and other authorities. These masks provide a tight seal to the wearer’s face and must be fit tested to ensure that the seal is adequate. Respirators are generally only required during specific high-risk medical maintenance procedures, or lab activities where the wearer is exposed to chemicals/dust or droplet/airborne viruses and bacteria. Respirators that have exhalation valves do not provide sufficient COVID-19 protection from the wearer and should not be used in close proximity to others. 

 

In situations where two-metre physical distancing is not possible, protection from medical or non-medical masks is highest when all people are wearing masks. 

Face masks are available for purchase from the Campus Store and vending machines throughout campus. A limited supply is also available in the Welcome Centre (Building 300) for those who are unable to purchase a mask.

From the BCCDC:

Face shields do not replace non-medical masks. Face shields are commonly worn with a mask underneath for extra protection and are used to protect you from oncoming splashes and sprays. 

The design of the face shield does not necessarily protect other people as it may not block all of your droplets or spray, which can escape from the bottom or sides of the shield. The BC Centre for Disease Control does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. 

 

Your employer may ask you to wear a face shield as extra protection. The face shield should not replace other prevention measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, barriers, and non-medical masks. 

Face shields when masks are not an option:

  • 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. 

Students

You are required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas on campus, which includes classrooms and labs. Students, please speak to your instructor if you have questions about mask exemptions and complete the Student Mask Exemption Form.

No.  For the safety of our campus community, all VIU students, employees and visitors to campus are required to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces within VIU facilities. This includes the library and all spaces in the library except the private study rooms. You may remove your mask if you are alone in a single occupant private study room in the library. 

For student mask exemptions in our common areas such as the library and cafeteria, please complete the Student Mask Exemption Form.

Employees

You are required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas on campus, including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs and in spaces that are high traffic and/or require close proximity to others. This includes areas of office buildings where public services are required.

Our "Where do I need to wear a mask at VIU?" document has more details: 

where-do-i-need-to-wear-a-mask-at-viu.pdf
Where do I need to wear a mask at work?

As per the Public Health Order, employees can remove their masks in the following situations:

  1. if the face covering is removed temporarily for the purposes of identifying the post-secondary staff person;
  2. while the post-secondary staff person is consuming food or drink at a location designated for those purposes by the post-secondary institution and while seated;
  3. while participating in physical activity organized by the post-secondary institution or at a fitness facility or sport facility operated by the postsecondary institution;
  4. while communicating with a person for whom visual cues, facial expressions, lip-reading or lip movements are essential;
  5. if the post-secondary staff person is in a room by themselves;
  6. if the post-secondary staff person is in an office or other indoor area of a building or structure operated by the post-secondary institution and if no students or members of the public are present;
  7. If the post-secondary staff person is delivering a presentation or lecture or teaching if i. there is a distance of two metres separating the post-secondary staff person and students or ii. if there is a physical barrier between the post-secondary staff person and students.

No, provided there is a distance of two metres separating you and the students or there is a physical barrier between you and the students. Otherwise you must wear a mask.

Employees, if you have questions about mask exemptions in the work environment please contact your manager and HR Advisor.

Instructors should refer students to the Student Exemption Form for assistance with all classroom mask exemptions.

Masks in Labs and Shops

You are required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas on campus, which includes labs. For mask accommodations, please complete our Student Mask Exemption Form.

If the reusable face covering becomes contaminated with hazardous materials, it must be treated using established procedures in the lab for contaminated clothing. If it cannot be treated, then the reusable face covering must be discarded as contaminated waste. 

Wearing a reusable face covering does not increase the potential for contamination from work activities. The hazard controls already in place to protect a worker's nose and mouth during activity will continue to protect you.  If you already wear PPE to protect you from hazardous chemical exposure, please do not substitute with a non-medical face masks for those activities. Continue to wear all required PPE.

Lab procedures must include adequate controls to mitigate the risk of fire. The measures already in place to protect from a fire risk continue to protect you. 

Face coverings with exhalation valves are not recommended during COVID-19.

No, in most cases there is no requirement to change cloth reusable face coverings when leaving one work area to go to another, unless specifically required by that area (e.g. some work areas do not allow use of cloth face coverings inside their areas and will supply other types of PPE or non-medical face coverings).