February 15, 2021
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey

To the Brown Community: Important Information and Guidance re: Mask Wearing


Dear Brown Community Members,

I am writing with important and updated guidance regarding mask-wearing on campus. As we have known for some time, correct and consistent mask use is an effective and critical measure everyone can take to prevent both getting and spreading COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued additional guidance regarding mask-wearing this past week, which can be read here. The CDC guidance has been updated because scientists have learned more about optimal mask-wearing, especially regarding the importance of fit, and it is timely because of concerns regarding the circulation nationally of highly infectious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Of particularly critical importance are the following points:

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask.
  • Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ respiratory droplets out. A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets from getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are infected.

The cotton masks that the University has made available to students, faculty and staff have layers and fit snugly when properly worn. Consistent with the guidance from the CDC and the importance of mask-wearing, we are issuing the following additional guidance:

  • We strongly urge all members of the community to wear a single high-quality mask (such as a KF94) or two masks (e.g., a cotton mask over a surgical mask) when indoors in close proximity to other people for a sustained period of time, or in circumstances where social distancing is difficult to maintain, even for shorter periods of time. This includes, but is not limited to, in-person classroom settings, work in laboratories under an approved Resuming Research plan, picking up meals, going to the mailroom or bookstore, and getting your COVID-19 test.
  • We are in the process of procuring additional surgical masks and KF94 masks to distribute to the on-campus community in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you do not have access to a surgical mask, you can continue to wear the cotton mask that has been issued to everyone on campus, paying particularly close attention to the fit.
  • A surgical mask can be made more effective by knotting the ear loops and tucking the unneeded materials under the edges. Video instructions on how to do so can be viewed here.
  • It is important to be familiar with and follow the CDC guidance on effective mask-wearing. For example, wearing two surgical masks is not recommended and certain types of specialized masks, such as a KF94, should not be combined with any other mask.

Wearing a single high-quality mask or two masks that fit well when you are indoors and around other people protects you and others from spreading or contracting COVID-19. Please take this guidance seriously, and look for additional information and mask supplies in the coming weeks.


Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy