Not all masks are made equal


According to Cal Poly Humboldt regulations, face masks are required everywhere on the campus, and at all school functions. Amid the predicted peak of the Omicron surge, mandated masking is a key part of the university’s strategy to prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19.

Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman has confirmed that the Public Health Department has been in contact with Cal Poly Humboldt with regards to the university’s COVID-19 regulations.

“We, as Public Health, have continued to offer, you know, clear guidance on how to make public spaces safe, which includes things like masking, distancing, testing, vaccinations – they are doing all of those things at HSU [Cal Poly Humboldt], and we have been in communication with them,” Hoffman said. “So, I think the ultimate decision is up to them.”

Graphic by August Linton

Not all masks offer the same amount of protection, to the wearer or to those around them.

According to the CDC, NIOSH-approved N95 masks are the best, followed by KN95s and surgical masks. Cloth masks rank the lowest, although it is noted that layered, finer fabrics are more effective than loosely woven or single-layered varieties.

Whatever type, it is important that masks be well-fitted, with no gaps around the nose or edges. A surgical mask underneath a cloth mask may resolve fit problems.

County Health Officer Hoffman suggested double-masking for all types except N95s. He also cautioned against masks with one-way vents.

“Those vents … protect the person wearing it, but they’re not protecting anyone around them,” Hoffman said.

Despite their efficacy, Cal Poly Humboldt does not currently require that students wear N95s.

“The reason N95 Masks cannot be mandated on campus is that there are some situations where N95 masks can exacerbate medical conditions for the wearer,” the university stated in a Campus Ready email update. “The campus community is encouraged to wear N95 masks if they are able.”

Free N95s and surgical masks are available at College Creek Mailroom, JGC mailroom, UPD, Welcome Center, the Library, and the SAC.

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