Masks or other face coverings are required on campus

Last updated: January 15, 2021

  • Face coverings are required in workplaces, University buildings and student residences, with some exceptions.
  • Exemptions can be provided for persons who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability. These exemptions are required to be approved via an employee or student accommodation process.
  • Face masks/respirators with exhaust valves, or mouth shields are not suitable face coverings.

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, you are required to wear a face mask or other appropriate face covering in all common indoor spaces.

Effective Monday, July 27, all employees, students, visitors and contractors are required to wear a face covering in common use areas of University buildings. This includes corridors, lobbies, washrooms, elevators, classrooms, teaching laboratories and meeting rooms, or in any area where physical distancing is a challenge.

In employees-only areas, managers will set the expectation with their teams based on physical setup and work activities.  

According to new guidance from the Government of Ontario, face coverings are required in workplaces, even those that are not open to the public, however, you do not need to wear a face covering when you are working in an area that is not accessible to the public and allows you to maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from anyone else while you are indoors. 

Students residing in university residences are not required to wear a mask except when they are in a common area and can’t maintain 2 metres’ distance from others.

A face covering is defined as a medical or non-medical mask or other covering, including a bandana, scarf or other fabric that covers the nose, mouth and chin to create a barrier to limit the transmission of respiratory droplets. Face coverings should have at least 2 to 3 layers of tightly woven material. 

  • Masks or respirators with an exhalation valve are NOT suitable face coverings. These types of masks are proven to be ineffective as a source control measure. 
  • Mouth shields are NOT a suitable face covering option as they do not fit snugly around the mouth, nose and chin. Mouth shields allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask, and do not help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 


Exemptions include the following:

  • people who are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability 
  • children under the age of 2
  • when communicating with a person who is hearing impaired and the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication 
  • when wearing a face covering would create a risk to the wearer related to their work, as determined by workplace safety guidelines  
  • classroom instructors, where a face covering is an impediment to instruction, and only where physical distancing is maintained

If you need an exemption for a medical condition or disability, you must provide appropriate documentation to the University. Please review the Face Covering Exemption Request Form and submit the completed form to AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees) to develop an accommodation plan.

Accommodations may include remote participation (academics) or alternate arrangements (employees), which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Where to get a mask 

You can bring your own mask or face covering that covers the nose, mouth and chin. Non-medical, Waterloo-branded cloth masks are available for purchase at the W Store.  

Ordering masks (employees) 

We will provide two cloth face masks to each employee and graduate researcher approved to return to campus. To help coordinate order volumes, your manager or supervisor will order for your team.

Managers and researchers can order cloth face masks from Central Stores using the  online stores requisition  form (item code  33-0989).  Faculty supervising graduate students should order on behalf of their students. We will not charge your budget for these items, however you must give an account number on the requisition form.

We’re all in this together  

For your safety and the safety of those around you, please wear a mask or other face covering where required. Please also remember in your interactions with your colleagues that not everyone is able to safely wear a face covering.

Enforcement of the face covering requirement will depend on the individual’s relationship with the University, the nature of an incident, the place in which it occurred, and the impact on others.