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UNM updates mask requirements amid omicron surge: UNM Newsroom

Lobos will need to upgrade the mask game by wearing medical or sanitary masks on campus

While vaccines are our most powerful tool against COVID-19, masks remain an important form of protection against airborne diseases, so wearing a quality mask is critical. To further protect students, staff and faculty in UNM learning and research environments, cloth masks will no longer comply with current concealment requirements.

From January 18, UNM will require the wearing of medical or sanitary masks. UNM students, staff, and faculty are required to wear three-ply medical/hygiene procedures masks or better (ASTM Type 1, 2, 3 or better).

Specific ASTM Levels

  • ASTM Level 1: Ideal for procedures where the risk of exposure to liquids is low (no splashes or sprays expected).
  • ASTM Level 2: Ideal for procedures where there is a moderate risk of exposure to liquids (spots or sprays may be produced).
  • ASTM Level 3: Ideal for procedures with a high risk of exposure to liquids (spots or sprays will be produced).

“Due to the significant rise in cases and the increase in apparent infection of the omicron variant, we are following the latest advice from scientific experts and are requesting an upgrade to a more protective type of mask,” UNM President Garnett S. Stokes wrote on campus. Global Message January 10 “We continue to take a data-driven and evidence-based approach to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on our campuses and across our community.”

Because the omicron variant is highly transmissible, cloth masks do not provide the best protection against smaller aerosols or potentially airborne virus-laden particles if infected people are present. Cloth masks may be worn over medical or sanitary masks required to enhance fit but should not be worn alone. UNM requires that masks be worn indoors at all times, in all UNM facilities unless you are eating or drinking or in the office alone.

The masks will be available to students in a variety of locations, including high-traffic classroom buildings such as Mitchell, Dane Smith and Woodward Halls, and the Cooperative Teaching and Learning (CTLB) building. Student Mask Ambassadors will also be in the common areas of classroom buildings to distribute masks to students who need them. The Johnson Recreation Center and Student Union Building (SUB) will also have masks available. The masks were also allocated to the offices of deans of colleges and schools to be distributed to departments on campus.

Watch this helpful video to improve the fit of your mask.

UNM continues to closely monitor changes in guidance provided by the CDC and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH).

Due to the significant rise in cases and the clear increase in infection of the omicron variant, new guidelines from both the CDC and NMDOH were released late last week. In response, the Return Pack website has been updated with new protocols including:

  1. Managing Symptoms, Exposure, and Positive Cases: These new procedures adopt the latest CDC and NMDOH guidelines to ensure our community remains safe and reduce the need for quarantine or isolation.
  2. UNM COVID-19 Call Center Operations Changes: To better manage volume and streamline operations, the UNM COVID-19 Call Center has implemented a new secure online symptom scanning. This survey app replaces the previous directive “Contact a UNM Call Center” and instead employees will use this new survey to report on their individual situations.
  3. Updated mask requirements: Following the latest advice from scientific experts, UNM is asking staff to upgrade to a more protective type of mask – a three-ply medical/sanitary procedure mask or better.

For more information and guidance for the upcoming spring semester including COVID-19 protocols for students and educators, including information on concealment and UNM vaccination promotion requirements, visit The Pack is Back: A Safe Return to Campus.

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