FAQs about Mask Protocols

Face coverings are required in all indoor public spaces in all VIU buildings where people circulate freely. This means that face coverings (face masks) are now required to be worn in all indoor common areas on VIU campuses. Common areas include building lobbies, hallways, stairwells, washrooms, elevators, study areas, coffee shops, cafeterias, libraries, student services areas and other high-traffic common areas. For more information, see our Mask Protocols homepage

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 common/indoor public areas including the library, hallways, bathrooms, elevators and lounges. Visit our Mask Protocol homepage for more details.

Yes, but we ask that you plan to eat and drink in a location that allows you to remain physically distant from others. Eating and drinking in common areas is not recommended, and must be done quickly. Removing your mask and simply having food or a drink beside you is not allowed in common areas. 

Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to one or more of the following BC exemptions will need to apply for an accommodation at VIU.  

  • People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments. 
  • People who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own. 
  • Children under the age of 12. 
  • People who need to remove their masks to communicate due to a hearing impairment. 

If you have questions about the mask accommodation, please see the Student Mask Exemption Form website or contact your Human Resources Advisor.

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. 

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, and the university will not enforce the Public Health Order for those with valid reasons and have followed the VIU Mask Exemption Accommodation Process. Individuals who demonstrate disregard for the Public Health Order and the VIU Mask Exemption Accommodation Process, and put the well-being of others at risk, may be subject to disciplinary action under the VIU Student Code of Conduct.

Department leaders should ensure that students and employees in their respective areas are aware of and follow the requirements for mask use. Compliance checks will be conducted by the VIU COVID-19 Safety Ambassadors and Campus Security in common/indoor public spaces. 

  • 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. 

Students

Masks are not mandatory within classrooms; however, some faculties and departments at VIU have determined that masks must be worn in all classrooms as an added layer of protection. Faculty are allowed to remove their masks when teaching as long as they are more than two metres away from their students. 

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. 

All exemption requests and mask specific protocols should be discussed with the Manager of Student Housing directly. 

Masks in Labs and Shops

If the lab you are in requires mask use, you must follow the established safety procedures developed for that particular lab. 

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.  

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).