The word from on high: WEAR A MASK

Our chancellor has confirmed what I thought was obvious. We’re going to be masked up on campus from now on.

As we make plans for our fall return to campus, there have been many questions concerning the use of masks and other face coverings. In my June 5 message I shared initial guidance on this topic. Over the last several weeks, however, the research, guidance, and advice we have received from medical experts and public health officials has evolved.

We now know a simple face covering provides valuable protection against the spread of COVID-19. We know that it’s possible to carry COVID-19 with no apparent symptoms and unknowingly infect others; face coverings reduce the chance that individuals might unknowingly infect others. We also know masks and face coverings send strong visual cues reminding us all to take precautions to protect our health and the health of our neighbors, colleagues, and friends. Together, the physical protection and visual reminders provided by masks and face coverings can help us all support our community as we come back together on campus.

We know, too, that extra precautions may be appropriate in communities that have higher levels of COVID-19 spread, or risk of spread, due to larger populations, shared living environments, and other factors. We have such communities on campus and must exercise caution accordingly.

Given these developments, I am updating our earlier recommendation on the use of masks.

Effective July 1 and continuing until rescinded, all University of Minnesota students, faculty, staff, and visitors (including contractors, service providers, vendors, and suppliers) are required to use a face covering at all times when in any enclosed or indoor space on University campuses and properties with the following exceptions:

  • When eating or drinking; however, physical distancing must be practiced.
  • In your assigned on-campus apartment or residence hall room.
  • When you are alone in a room or where a posted and official University notice indicates masks are not needed.
  • When you are alone in a motor vehicle.
  • If you are unable to wear a face covering while exercising at the Cougar Sports Center or Regional Fitness Center.
  • In labs or other places that instead require use of a respirator.
  • If you require accommodations for health or disability reasons. On the Morris campus, the Disability Resource Center and Human Resources can help identify needed accommodations.

The full face covering protocol can be found at the Return to Campus website. An extensive FAQ is also available online.

I take exception to some of the exceptions, though. There’s no reason not to wear a mask while exercising; if you have a serious respiratory problem that prevent you from wearing one, exercise outdoors. Otherwise, the fitness center is going to be a major source of problems, especially given that it is a community resource and I’ve often seen older people using, for instance, the indoor track. The “health or disability” reason is just a gaping loophole, given that so many healthy people are trying to argue that they get to be exempt from the rules. Be specific: you need an official accommodation from our health center.

Randy Rainbow was much more entertaining with the same message.


  1. says

    “There’s no reason not to wear a mask while exercising”
    100% agree. I bike two miles to and from work every day and do so wearing a mask. I have no problem breathing. I take my mask off when I eat lunch and I take my mask off when I go home. Not a good excuse.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I have a minor quibble with the instructions. They should specify that the face covering should be worn such that it covers both the mouth and nose at all times. I see many people at the grocery store that don’t have their nose covered, and some only have it covering their chin. That doesn’t make me feel that safe.

  3. davidc1 says

    gawd dang it heavens to bettsie amurica is goin to hell in a hand cart no big gubberment is gonna force me to muzzle up

  4. cartomancer says

    I would say the situation reminds me of a Greek tragedy, all full of hubris and downfall and horrors, with an ever-present chorus of citizens to comment on the latest awful occurences… but at least in Greek tragedy everyone wears a mask.

  5. jrkrideau says

    After doing well and going to Level two about 2 weeks ago along with most of the rest of the province, my small city suddenly got hit with a hotspot at a nail shop can we suddenly jumped up by 25 cases. Public officer of Health immediately started contact tracing and instituted a mask rule rolling closed public spaces.

    I have not seen or heard of anyone complaining so far. It just seems like common sense.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    The reasons the Swedish authorities have not decreed people should wear masks in public is 1: it may give a false sense of safety, and make people ignore the other advice about washing & social distancing, and
    2: you have to attach the masks properly- even a tiny gap reduces the protective effect catastrophically.
    If you :1 keep following advice and 2: know how to attach the masks properly, sure, go for it. Just remember the masks are not 100% efficient.
    Good news: if you have antibodies against the virus (as proven by a well-trusted kind of test with no false positive results) you can socialise with people from the risk groups. But wash your hands and stay a few feet apart- you could be carrying virus particles from someone else!
    (This is the latest advice from Folkhälsomyndigheten after assessing clinical data).

  7. says

    “There’s no reason not to wear a mask while exercising”

    Wearing a face-mask I briskly walk round an indoor track at our local fitness centre (about 4.5 mph for 3 miles) with no problem apart from my glasses fogging a bit, and I’m 73 and have had pneumonia, bronchitis and am mildly asthmatic.

  8. Matt G says

    Just saw an article from saying cotton cloth may be more effective than synthetics.

  9. Jazzlet says

    Richardelguru @#9
    Try a folded strip of kitchen paper rested over your nose under the mask. It may not work for you, but I find it solves most of the fogging problem. Someone else recommended putting a film of diluted washing up liquid (?dish soap?) on the lenses and letting it dry, reckons it solves the problem completely, but I’ve not tried that so can make no comment on it’s effectiveness.

  10. kestrel says

    @richardelguru #9: here is my trick. Put your mask all the way up your nose so it’s close to your eyes, higher than you might think but so you can still see over it. Put your glasses below that point, lower on your nose but close to where you normally wear them. This works for both me and the Partner. Hope it works for others as well.

  11. says

    Both those objections are complete bunk. And since Sweden is evidently failing to tackle the virus, with deaths per million being in the top ten worldwide and cases still rising, I would not take the advice from the Swedish government very seriously right now.
    Nr 1 is a pure assertion without evidence. And in fact, it is contradicted by the evidence in countries where mask-wearing was recommended or even mandatory.
    Nr 2 is simply a red herring – it is completely tangential to the issue at hand, with only an appearance of relevance. It would be relevant if the talk was about N95 or equivalent respirator masks that are supposed to protect the wearer. But that is not what widespread use of masks is about. Even a simple cloth mask, with an imperfect fit, reduces greatly the amount and distance travel of exhaled particles. And that is what masks are about – they are supposed to slow the spread of the virus, nobody has ever even suggested that they are 100% efficient.

  12. jack16 says

    For comfortable breathing try using a valve mask. A light mask can then be worn over the valves to make your exhalation safer for others.

  13. says

    The reasons the Swedish authorities have not…

    Honestly, the Swedish authorities can go fuck themselves. I know, I know, supporters of the Swedish model (I’m not counting you there or attacking you, birger) still claim that “they could be right in the end”, but I suppose “the end” is a very mobile goalpost. I think we have already passed a couple of goalposts at which we should have seen that the Swedish model was better. But however it ends, fact is that they decided to let elderly people just die, and that coming from a nominally leftist government is a stark betrayal of all the values they should have stood for. Oh, and they tanked their economy just the same as everybody else, so sacrificing gramps didn’t even work.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    I know, Gilliell. And we should use whatever tools that are available to us, since not all of us can escape to a mansion on some private island (glares at the billionaires who want to open up society too soon).
    My point is, masks are only one tool among many measures to be taken against the virus. Health care personnel obviously need personal protection equipment (PPE) as they are much more exposed.
    Since different countries record SARS-CoV-2 mortality in different manners direct comparisons can be misleading, but Belgium is a good case for masks not being the crucial component. To the best of my knowledge, Belgium is applying a massive use of face masks yet has the same mortality as Stockholm.
    But SARS-CoV-2 spreads in a manner where disease transmission clusters play a greater role than for other pathogens. Belgium -and the Stockholm region- apparently had many cases of cluster spreading before patients started turning up at the hospitals and the authorities realised the scale of the problem (the regions outside Stockholm have much lower mortality).

    An earlier enforcement of social distancing by just a week would have made a huge difference in both cases. Social distancing was relatively effective in Sweden: transmission of the ordinary flu and the seasonal stomach flu promptly ceased! But by that time SARS-CoV-2 was too established for any single measure to have a rapid effect. As for why SARS-CoV-2 spreads in a different manner and is harder to stop than the ordinary flu and other airborne pathogens no one knows.

    If I could go back in time, I would instruct people to wear masks, but the social distancing is the most important part. Which is why forcing people to go back to crowded workplaces is crazy. But you all already know that.
    No one should be forced to work in the same office as another, that is what telecommuting is for. And people working in shops should all have a transparent wall between themselves and the customers. Buses and trains likewise cannot be used to full capacity, maybe just a quarter if you set safety first.

    BTW even if mistakes were made at first (and I am not forgiving the Swedish government for that) they at least absorbed new data about the need for drastic production of new PPEs and other contingencies. We have been playing catch up ever since February, with varying success for different regions. As mentioned, Stockholm was hit hardest.

  15. says

    It seems like Belgium doesn’t have a strong masks policy. Yes, social distancing seems to be most important. I can neither understand the people who NEEEEEEED to go to bars and restaurants nor those who are so HAPPPPPPPY they can go on holidays. School closings seem to be among the most effective measures, but it would be nice if the powers that be would make sure we had adequate infrastructure and the kids devices for digital learning.