4.22.20: Guidance on Using Masks and Other Updates (HWC Update)

An update from the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center outlines guidance on using masks.

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,

As areas across the country are increasingly requiring the usage of masks in public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has good guidance on how to protect yourself and others. 

The CDC and PA Department of Health are recommending that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. 

This is based on new evidence that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.   

The CDC recommends that for general use, you use a cloth or homemade mask to preserve the supply of other masks for healthcare workers. 

Information about Homemade Masks can be found at:

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 (CDC)

Guidance on Homemade Masks During COVID-19 (Pennsylvania Department of Health) 

We have compiled and adapted guidance from sources such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC outlining the difference between the types of masks and their purpose. A brief summary of the types of masks is given below. 


Lehigh University

Health and Wellness Center Team


Common Mask Types

N95 Respirators (not recommended for use by the general public)

An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a close facial fit and efficient filtration of airborne particles.

The 'N95' designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks, but does not completely eliminate risk.

Cloth masks (recommended for regular use)

Cloth masks are recommended for use during essential trips outside of the home. These masks can be laundered at home and used multiple times. For instructions to make and wear a reusable cloth face covering, visit the CDC website. 

When removing, pay special attention to taking the mask off from the straps (not touching the front). Place in a pillowcase to keep the ties with the mask. To clean, wash with hot water and completely dry on medium or high heat.​

Surgical Mask (commonly referred to as a face mask)

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Watch a quick visual guide to using surgical masks.

If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs and help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others. Face masks do not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs and sneezes and are not intended to be used more than once.

Instructions for Wearing a Surgical Mask:

•Check the mask for defects such as tears or missing loops and throw away if necessary.

•The exterior (usually yellow or blue) side of the mask should face out, away from your face.

•Place the mask on your face with the blue side facing out and the stiff, bendable edge at the top by your nose.

•If the mask has ear loops, put one loop around each ear.

•If the mask has ties, pick up the mask by the ties and tie the upper ties behind your head with a bow.

•Once the mask is in place, use your index finger and thumb to pinch the bendable top edge of the mask around the bridge of your nose.

•If the mask has a lower tie, then once the mask is fitted to the bridge of your nose, tie the lower ties behind your head with a bow.

•Make sure the mask is completely secure and covers your nose and mouth so that the bottom edge is under your chin.

•Wash your hands.

Removing the Mask:

•Wash your hands before removing the mask.

•Do not touch the inside of the mask (the part over nose and mouth). It may be contaminated from your breathing, coughing or sneezing.

•Untie or remove the ear loops and remove the mask by the straps.

•Throw the mask in the trash.

•Wash your hands.


Resources available

Health and Wellness Center

For our students, please remember The Health and Wellness Center continues to be open and available to assist with students’ health needs. If you have a medical concern or are feeling ill, please call us at 610-758-3870. Our clinical staff will complete a phone assessment with you to determine your needs and make recommendations for care. If you are having a medical emergency and you are on campus, call LUPD at 610-758-4200, and if you are off-campus, call 9-1-1.

Counseling and Psychological Services

If you find yourself feeling frightened, sad, or frustrated, we encourage you to reach out to those most familiar and close to you as well as offer to be there for others. In addition, if you think it might be helpful to talk things through with a counselor, we welcome you to contact our Office of Counseling and Psychological Services at 610-758-3880 or 610-758-5183. The center is open and counselors are available 24/7 to talk and provide support and assistance.


Stay connected virtually

Social distancing doesn’t mean you need to feel disconnected from the community. There are a growing number of events listed on the Lehigh website for you to join, including purely social events to provide a break from your studies. Browse all events on the events calendar.

Undergraduate student survey

Undergraduate students: the Student Affairs division is looking for your feedback on what your current concerns and needs are. Complete the brief survey here. Note: you must be an undergraduate student and log in to access the survey.