Skip to main content
For the most up-to-date UNC community information see the Carolina Together website.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Evidence shows that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic).

Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) has developed the following guidance and resources for the UNC-Chapel Hill community as we return to campus.  The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving and EHS will update its guidance as new information becomes available. Please check back regularly for updates.

Wearing a mask is a key step in preventing people from getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks should be worn indoors and outdoors anytime you are not around people you live with. At UNC-Chapel Hill, wearing a mask is part of the 3Ws (wear, wait and wash).

According to the CDC, effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Cloth Masks

Cloth masks can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics and fibers, various types of cloth mask are available. Cloth masks should have:

  • Two or more layers of washable, breathable fabrics.
  • Nose wire for a snug fit. Make sure the mask is not loose and has no gaps.
  • Cloth thick enough to block light when held up to bright light sources.
  • Do not wear cloth masks with exhalation valves or vents.

For a better fit and protection, cloth masks can be worn over a disposable mask or combined with a fitter or brace.

Disposable/Surgical Masks

Disposable/Surgical masks are fluid-resistant, loose-fitting protection that provide a barrier between the mouth and nose for the wearer against potential contaminants in the environment.

  • Multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Nose wire

K95 Masks

K95 masks are filtering facepiece respirators commonly made in China that are like N95 masks used in the United States. Make sure K95s:

  • Meet the requirements set by the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • Make sure the K95 is not counterfeit (about 60% of K95s in the US are counterfeit and not approved for use, according to the CDC and NIOSH).
  • Do not wear more than one K95 at a time, and they should not be worn with facial hair.

N95 Masks for Healthcare Workers

N95 masks are tight-fitted filtering facepiece respirators with protection against airborne particles. The CDC recommends N95 respirators not be used for protection against COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings and should be reserved for healthcare workers. N95s come in different makes and models. N95 use should include:

  • A fit test, before use, to determine a proper fit.
  • Training on how to use N95 properly.
  • NIOSH-approved.
For maximum protection, wear the mask consistently and correctly, over your nose and mouth and secure under your chin. It is important to make sure when wearing the mask:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when wearing the mask.
  • Keep your mask clean and dry. Replace if it becomes wet or soiled.
  • If the mask is disposable, throw it away after one use.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before handling your mask.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily through the mask.

How to Store and Wash Your Mask

Store your clean dry mask in a breathable bag, such as a paper or mesh fabric bag, to keep it clean between uses. When reusing your mask, keep the same side facing out. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands when handling your mask.

Wet cloth masks should be stored in a sealed plastic bag until they can be washed.

How to Wash Your Mask

Be sure to keep your mask clean. Cloth masks can be washed using a washing machine or by hand with laundry detergent or soap. Make sure to completely dry your mask using a clothes dryer or through air drying by hanging or laying it flat.

CDC Guide to Masks
Mask Types
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Learn when and how you should wash your hands to stay healthy.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can. Apply enough product on hands to cover all surfaces. Rub hands together, until hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Maintain a physical distance of at least six feet in the workplace. If you see someone walking, wait until there is 6 feet between you, stand to the side, or walk in the opposite direction.
Community Protective Equipment, or CPE, is Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, that is designed to not only protect yourself but those around you. CPE includes the following:

  • Facial Mask that is used to contain an employee’s potentially infectious respiratory secretions. It is worn while in the presence of others.
  • Nitrile gloves for employees with frequent physical contact with individuals (i.e. receptionist for student services).

Wearing CPE

  • Perform hand hygiene for 20 seconds before donning mask.
  • Properly don CPE by holding mask in hand against your face (positioned over your nose and under your chin), then pull straps around your ears.
  • If your position interacts regularly with the general public (i.e. student interfacing), gloves are recommended.
  • If gloves are worn, remove them first, then perform hand hygiene for 20 seconds before touching your mask for removal (eating, drinking or end of work time).

Disposing of CPE


  • Save masks for reuse if required by your department.
  • Frequency of use will depend on availability of mask.
  • Place in a paper bag with your name written on it.
  • University-provided masks must be left at the workplace.


  • Dispose of CPE in designated locations.
  • These locations will be communicated by departments/ building managers
  • Do not place CPE in recycling containers
Use a disinfectant that is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be effective against COVID-19. Verify the disinfectant is on the EPA’s List N registry of disinfectants. Disinfectants are listed by both name and by EPA ID number. Your product may not be listed by name, but if the EPA number matches what is on the list, then this is a good disinfectant to use.

Common Disinfectants Approved for COVID-19

  • 10% bleach in water
  • 70% ethanol

Disinfectant Contact Time

Disinfectants require a specific contact time in order to work. The majority require that you spray until the surface is thoroughly wet, then wait 5-10 minutes before wiping. If your disinfectant doesn’t have the specific contact time instructions on the label, that information should be available online.

Common COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Employees should self-monitor for these symptoms on a daily basis. Employees who develop fever or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should immediately self-isolate and contact their primary care provider to arrange for medical evaluation and testing.

Employees who meet any of the below criteria are not allowed at work and must notify the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) at 919-966-9119:

  • Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 or have a household contact who had tested positive for COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 in the past 14 days must be assessed and cleared by UEOHC prior to starting/returning to work.
  • Employees who have spent time in a factory, prison, group home, and/or congregate living facility that has been designated by a health department as having an outbreak of COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 (i.e., two cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 attributed to the facility) in the past 14 days must be assessed and cleared by UEOHC prior to starting/returning to work.
  • Employees who are currently persons under investigation by a health department due to travel or other community-outbreak investigations must be assessed and cleared by UEOHC prior to starting/returning to work.
  • Employees who develop fever or symptoms consistent with COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 should immediately self-isolate and contact their primary care provider to arrange for medical evaluation and testing.
  • Employees who call out from/leave work due to COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 symptoms must be assessed and cleared by UEOHC prior to starting/returning to work.
  • Do you have new muscle aches not related to another medical condition or another specific activity (e.g. due to physical exercise)?
  • Do you feel like you may have a temperature of greater than 100.0°F?
  • Do you have sore throat not related to another medical condition (e.g. allergies)?
  • Do you have a new or worsening cough that is not related to another medical condition?
  • Do you have shortness of breath that is not attributable to another medical condition?
  • Do you have recent (less than five days) loss of smell and taste?
  • Do you have new onset of vomiting or diarrhea not related to another medical condition?
  • Have you had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, immediately self-isolate and contact your primary care provider to arrange for medical evaluation and testing.