In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Main Campus, Temple introduced new mask guidelines for students on Jan. 21. Students must wear a KN95 mask, a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top or a surgical mask with multiple layers of nonwoven fabric.
Students who do not comply with the mask guidelines will be reminded of the policy and offered a mask, wrote Stephanie Ives, associate vice president and dean of students, in an email to The Temple News. Students will only be referred to Student Conduct if they do not comply after being reminded.
Punishments for noncompliance with the university’s mask policy vary on the severity of the violation. A clear-cut violation could result in a fine and probation, while a second or disruptive offense would carry additional penalties, Ives wrote.
Free KN95 and surgical masks will be available to students at the Charles Library security desk, the TECH Center security desk, the Howard Gittis Student Center information desk and the Bell Building, on Montgomery Avenue near 12th Street, while supplies last. Students will get one mask after they swipe their OWLcard.
Sean Quinn, a senior marketing major, thinks that Temple supplying KN95 masks is convenient especially with the return of in-person classes.
“It’s good that, you know, they’re keeping people safer if they’re gonna make everyone come in person,” Quinn said. “I mean, I’d rather be in-person than online.”
Temple will evaluate whether they need to order more KN95 masks in the coming weeks, wrote Mark Denys, director of student and employee health services, in an email to The Temple News.
The university does not have a plan to distribute KN95 masks to the local community at this time, Denys wrote.
Temple Student Government purchased 1,000 masks in addition to the university’s supply and will be distributing them to students for free this week at the student center information desk.
TSG already had plans to purchase KN95 masks for the student body before Temple announced they would be doing so, said TSG President Bradley Smutek.
“We didn’t think it was totally fair for the university to expect students to wear certain kinds of masks without making it easy for the students to get that kind of masking, so we figured us getting 1,000 masks is a good start,” Smutek said.
However, Smutek believes it is ultimately the university’s responsibility to give students access to higher-quality masks.
Jason Konadu, a junior psychology major, is appreciative of TSG’s contribution to COVID-19 mitigation.
“It’s nice to know that they’re a part of the community and are doing something active in this pandemic, that’s all we want,” Konadu said.
Individuals can also purchase surgical or KN95 masks online through companies like Project N95 or Bona Fide Masks. The United States Food and Drug Administration has also compiled a list of surgical masks, N95s and other respirators and face shields that have received emergency-use authorization, according to their website.
The White House announced on Jan.19 that they will make 400 million free N95 masks available at locations across the country, NBC News reported.
The benefits of double-masking include increased particle filtration and a tighter grip against the face with fewer gaps where particles could come in, said Abby Rudolph, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor.
While double-masking is a viable option to protect yourself from COVID-19, N95 masks provide the best protection against COVID-19 because they filter 95 percent of particles, Rudolph said.
With the prevalence of the highly-contagious Omicron variant, which was first reported in Philadelphia on Dec. 3, high-quality surgical and KN95 masks can help capture viral particles of COVID-19, especially in a classroom setting, said Inkyu Han, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor.
Surgical masks or respirators, like the KN95, are made with fibers that have smaller pores making it hard for COVID-19’s aerosol particles to get through the mask, Han said. Cloth masks are not efficient enough at capturing the particles.
The University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University and the Community College of Philadelphia are requiring students to double-mask or wear medical-grade masks. Drexel University is recommending students wear two masks, but has not instituted a requirement, according to their website.
“[A KN95 mask] offers the best protection that we have available,” Rudolph said. “KN95s filter out more particles than any other mask.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated which type of mask Abby Rudolph said provides the best protection against COVID-19. It has been corrected.