Use of Disposable Procedure Masks in Laboratories

University of Portland will require all students, staff, and faculty to wear disposable masks in laboratory settings when 6’ distance between individuals is not feasible. Faculty and staff teaching or interacting in a laboratory setting will be provided with a personal face shield for additional protection if desired. 

Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), social distancing should be employed to maintain six feet (6') between individuals in order to minimize the risk of transmitting COVID-19. According to Oregon Health Authority, in settings with higher risk of spread such as laboratories, computer labs, music/performance classes, studios, and locker rooms, universities should implement enhanced measures such as greater physical distancing, physical barriers (e.g. clear plastic), increased fresh air ventilation, moving outdoors, and enhanced cleaning measures as feasible.

In addition, masks, face shields, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to supplement social distancing and are required in cases where it is not possible to maintain a consistent 6' distance between individuals. Disposable surgical masks are designed with some fluid resistance when worn to protect the wearer, providing protection from other individual’s respiratory emissions, and help contain the wearers respiratory emissions. Cotton masks are designed to reduce the transmission of the virus by the wearer. Cloth masks do not provide the same level of protection in terms of moisture resistance and particle penetration as a disposable medical/procedure masks. Medical/procedure masks are tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM) to determine how resistant their material is to fluid and particle prevention to ensure they provide adequate protection. Medical/procedure masks are considered medical devices and must go through approval process with the Food and Drug Administration.


A disposable procedure mask can be reused until it becomes torn, visibly soiled, or hard to breath through. Medical/procedure masks are prioritized for healthcare provides leading to current shortages. University of Portland may be required to limit the number of masks available to each community member. You are encouraged to reuse your disposable procedure mask as possible. 


Faculty and staff in higher risk populations that must teach or interact in a laboratory setting where 6’ distance between individuals can not be maintained may apply for approval to use a KN-95 mask while teaching in the laboratory setting. KN-95s have been approved by the CDC as a reasonable alternative to N-95 masks. 

Reasons for requesting this accommodation could include, but are not limited to:

  • Being part of a higher risk category, identified by the CDC, as older adults or people of any age who have underlying medical conditions.
  • Having immediate family that identify as part of a higher risk category.

For faculty, accommodations are made through the Provost’s Office by emailing For staff, accommodations should be made by contacting Human Resources at

(updated 7/28/2020)