Mask Requirements

KN95 mask

Updated 11/17/2022

Masks are optional in all on-campus locations except the Keefe Health Center and the COVID-19 Testing Center. (Massachusetts continues to require masking in healthcare facilities.) Individual faculty members may choose to maintain the mask requirement in their classrooms as they deem appropriate. 

Understanding that our community holds a wide range of perspectives on COVID-19 protocols, it is imperative to respect the individual circumstances that lead to those perspectives. Please be aware of the following:

  • We support individuals on campus who choose to continue to wear masks and ask everyone to be respectful of those who choose to do so. No one should feel compelled to justify their decision to wear a mask. Individuals are expected to comply with requests to wear a mask when interacting closely with others. 

  • We will continue to support members of our community who are immunocompromised or who have special health concerns. Students who believe they may be eligible for a reasonable accommodation for diagnoses covered by the ADA should contact Larissa Hopkins, Director of Accessibility Services; faculty and staff should contact Human Resources. Faculty who wish to know more about how they might support immunocompromised students in their classrooms should also feel free to contact Larissa.

  • Wearing a well-fitting KN-95 mask provides excellent protection from COVID-19 and other viruses, even if others around you are not wearing masks.

  • In a recent student survey in which 1,029 students participated, 81% of our students indicated they would choose not to wear masks if given the choice; 19% would continue to do so. While the decision to move to being mask-optional was not based on the survey results, this information may help as faculty members determine whether or not to require masking in their classrooms (in addition to information they already have from previous class surveys).

Beyond the new masking protocol, as is being reported widely, including this recent update from Johns Hopkins, there are signs of an impending convergence of the flu, COVID-19 and the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Therefore, we encourage all members of the community to:

  • get the flu shot and the bivalent Covid-19 booster if you have not already done so;

  • continue to practice good hygiene, including hand-washing, staying at home if you are sick, wearing a mask if you must be in public spaces, and getting a COVID-19 test if you are symptomatic; and

  • take advantage of free antigen and PCR tests at the Testing Center in Alumni House on weekdays (Antigen tests are also available for pick up 24/7 at the Dispatch Center (413-542-2291) in the Service Building or via the Community Safety Assistant (CSA) team, who can deliver antigen tests to students in the residence halls by request through the Dispatch Center.

Where to Get Masks

  • KN95 face masks are available to students, faculty, and staff who are living or working on campus. 
  • Faculty, staff, and students can pick up masks at the following locations:
    • Service Center in the Services building (Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)
    • Commissary at Schwemm’s in Keefe Campus Center (daily 3 p.m. until Midnight)
    • Campus Post Office
    • The Testing Center in the Alumni House
  • Departments looking to acquire masks should contact the Amherst College Service Center at servicectr@amherst.edu.

Types of Masks 

  • KN95 masks afford a higher level of filtration and protection than the standard-issue, pleated filter masks. Faculty and staff who determine with their supervisor, and/or with input from Director of Health and Safety Rick Mears, that their role involves direct interaction with individuals requiring isolation (e.g., health services) will be provided with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-rated N95 masks.
  • Disposable, pleated, filter masks; cloth masks; bandanas; neck gaiters; and homemade masks are not allowed because studies show that they are not as effective.  
  • Masks should not have exhalation valves, as they defeat the purpose of the mask. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material. This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing it from transmitting COVID-19 to others.
  • Individual departments and other groups are prohibited from buying masks for their own distribution. Such purchases are restricted under Amherst’s discretionary spending policy. 

Caring for Masks

  • College-provided masks can be worn multiple times, depending on use. Replace your College-issued mask when it becomes dirty, damp, wet, or difficult to breath through (e.g., due to dust or pollen).
  • College-issued masks should not be sanitized or bleached, but rather discarded when they become dirty or wet. 

How to Wear a Mask Correctly

See how to properly put on and take off a mask.