For the Fall 2021 semester, we are actively responding as needed to the nationwide COVID-19 surge associated with the Delta variant. In addition to the University System of Maryland and UMBC’s vaccine requirement and testing protocols, please review these core safety measures for our campus.
Key Safety Measures
- All community members are currently required to wear a mask indoors in public spaces at UMBC. This includes in classrooms, on transportation, and inside dining facilities when not actively eating. While masks are not required in residential settings for fully vaccinated residents, they are strongly encouraged in all common areas and elevators.
- Make sure your mask is two or more layers of breathable material that fully covers your nose and mouth. Read more about choosing an effective mask.
- This requirement is only possible if we all work together to encourage everyone to be vigilant about mask wearing. If a professor, colleague, student, or other community member asks you to wear a mask or adjust your mask, please comply. While there is no official system to report masking violations, if you feel you need help, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In addition to these requirements, we also ask our community to keep masks in mind wherever they are. This includes asking individuals if they would like you to wear a mask, wearing a mask at off-campus activities, and not making assumptions about individuals who wear masks.
- Additional information on masks is available in the frequently asked questions below.
- Throughout our campus, we strongly encourage community members to maintain at least three feet physical distance from others. Current limits on classroom capacities will remain in place during the fall semester to allow for at least three feet of physical distancing in these spaces. We have made updates to seating in dining locations to help with distancing.
- We need our community’s help to avoid overcrowding in popular locations such as the University Center and the Commons.
- Feel Sick? Stay Home
- Help us all stay healthy and don’t come to campus if you are not feeling well.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been on campus, you should complete a case report form so that we can provide you support and resources.
Why are these precautions necessary?
- When everyone occupying a shared breathing space wears a mask and maintains social distance, we reduce the threat of sharing the virus.
- When we wear a mask and keep social distance, we protect other people around us in case any of us may be infected.
- We primarily transmit the coronavirus to others by spreading infected respiratory droplets when we breath, speak, cough, and sneeze.
- Spread of the virus is more likely among people in close contact. This means being within six feet of someone for more than 15 cumulative minutes in a 24 hour period.
- Combining masks with social distancing helps prevent the spread of droplets into shared breathing space.
- Appropriate use of face masks or coverings is critical in minimizing risk to others near you.
- We can spread the virus to others even if we are asymptomatic.
- Asymptomatic means we may be infected with the virus and able to spread infected droplets to others even if we don’t feel sick.
- There is no way to know if we are asymptomatic without being tested, and no way to know if others around us are asymptomatic either.
- The safest behavior is to assume that everyone in our shared breathing space may be infected with the virus.
Proper use of masks and social distancing on campus
- Masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Whenever possible, we must use both in combination to prevent spread of the virus.
- Masks are required on campus in all indoor settings.
- Masks are not required outdoors unless you are participating in an event that requires them or you are part of a group with children under 12 that cannot physically distance (six feet).
- Masks must cover your nose and mouth.
- Follow all seating plans, including during events, and posted campus signage.
- Be aware of signs posted on campus providing specific requirements for food service areas, common areas, and other public spaces.
When are masks recommended but not required?
- When occupying an indoor space alone (unless there are specific safety requirements for your activity like research or construction).
- When outdoors and social distancing can be assured.
- In private rooms in residence halls.
What if someone refuses to wear a mask or social distance?
- The message must be consistently stated that “my mask protects you; your mask protects me; our masks protect each other.”
- Recognize that wearing a mask can be difficult. Masks:
- Are not convenient and can be uncomfortable.
- Can be difficult for people who wear glasses (fogging).
- Can make speaking difficult and prevent eating and drinking.
- Can worsen breathing problems, anxiety, or fatigue.
- Can be conflated with political beliefs or beliefs about civil liberties.
- Everyone can lead by example:
- We can manage our own personal space and, when possible, create more distance between ourselves and someone without a mask.
- If we cannot manage distance, exercise courtesy when asking a person to use a mask; respect from both parties is essential.
- Empathize with people who experience difficulties wearing masks, acknowledge their concerns, and suggest increasing distance.
- Remind each other that these are behaviors we all agreed upon in order to be on campus.
- Recognize what DOES NOT work:
- Don’t engage in arguments or escalate a confrontation.
- Don’t attempt to shame someone; this strengthens resistance.
- Don’t make assumptions about why someone isn’t wearing a mask
Who will respond if someone refuses to take these precautions?
- Refusal to follow the rules for masks and social distancing can jeopardize the health or safety of one’s self or others and disrupt University activity.
- Faculty and staff may refer to the Behavioral Risk Assessment and Consultation Team (BRACT) guide for help in dealing with disruptive individuals.
- University officials should try to de-escalate these situations by offering to provide a mask if the individual does not have one.
- Officials will work to determine if there are reasonable circumstances for not following mask requirements like breathing problems, anxiety, or other health concerns. Situations like these may be resolved with referral assistance.
- Intentionally disruptive, non-compliant behavior may result in removal from campus.
- Public health concerns and increased vulnerability of some community members may make it necessary to call University Police if someone chooses not to follow the rules for masks and social distancing.
- Informal gatherings must utilize masks when social distancing is not possible. Gatherings that do not follow the guidance stated in the UMBC Code of Student Conduct will be dispersed.
For more information on appropriate on-campus conduct, please see The UMBC Code of Student Conduct, which includes a COVID-19 addendum.
What if I have health concerns about wearing a mask?
Please remember that masking is a CDC-recommended protocol to ensure the safety of our community members on campus.
Masking Exemptions: Given its importance as a key campus safety measure, there is not a process for community members to request exemptions from mask-wearing. If a community member has a documented disability that requires accommodation, they should work with the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services or the Office of Student Disabilities Services to explore alternative options.
Current Information on Prolonged Mask-Wearing: We acknowledge and understand that some have concerns about wearing a mask for extended periods of time. At this time we believe that multiple studies have found that the general population is not at increased risk of lower oxygen levels or higher carbon dioxide levels when wearing a mask. Furthermore, there is currently no information among healthcare professionals, educators who taught in-person over the past year, and other service workers who participated in strenuous activities while wearing masks, that indicates that prolonged mask-wearing has negative effects. Community members are welcome to take a mask-wearing break outdoors if needed, but are also encouraged to continually maintain physical distancing.
According to the CDC: “wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air you breathe. Cloth masks and surgical masks do not provide an airtight fit across the face. The CO2 escapes into the air through the mask when you breathe out or talk. CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn mask.”
Now that higher quality non-cloth masks are more readily available, some institutions and individuals are recommending that you wear a KN95 mask in group settings. The CDC provides an effective overview of the pros and cons of this decision on this page.
In general, at UMBC we do not believe these masks are necessary given our existing safety precautions, including our ability to physically distancing in classrooms. Given that they are designed for one-time use and many counterfeits are still in circulation, we are also not convinced they are a cost efficient solution for our community.
However, we recognize that some vulnerable members of our community, including those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, may wish to take advantage of the greater protection offered by these masks. We are investigating purchasing masks to make them available to these community members.
Are there occupancy limits on elevators?
Given the short amount of time spent in elevators, the University does not have protocols in place or occupancy limits on elevators. Masks are required on all elevators and we encourage community members to attempt – as much as possible – to limit the number of individuals in an elevator to allow for at least 3 feet of distancing. Elevator surfaces and buttons are included in the university’s cleaning protocols.