Campus Life

Coronavirus FAQ: I heard that the CDC recommends two masks; is this required?

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor Penn State is requiring the use of a double mask. CDC guidance suggests double masking as a means to improve how individuals can wear their masks. It is important to note, however, that you should not combine two disposable masks or double up on masks if it feels suffocating or difficult to breathe. Individuals seeking means to improve their mask performance can refer to CDC guidance for important ways to make sure your mask works the best it can.

Students, employees and visitors to Penn State are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks/coverings on campus. Multi-layer cloth masks or procedure masks are the preferred type of face covering in campus buildings, outdoors and whenever state or local laws require. All face coverings must cover the nose and chin. According to the CDC, masks should have two or more layers of washable fabric, completely cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face. 

Face coverings to avoid

Masks with exhaust valves are not acceptable. This is because valves allow air and respiratory droplets to escape the mask, which results in less protection for others. Those who are wearing a mask with a valve do not meet Penn State’s mask wearing requirements. 

There also is evidence that single-layer face coverings, including many types of neck gaiters, are not as effective in stopping respiratory droplets as multi-layer face coverings.  


The CDC also notes that reusable masks should be washed regularly. Reusable masks can be washed individually or with the rest of your laundry with regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the material used to make the cloth mask. The mask is ready to be worn again when it is completely dry.

More about masking

Guidelines surrounding the use of cloth masks are available on the EHS website and also on the University’s health guidelines page

It is critical to note that a cloth face mask is NOT a substitute for physical distancing. Individuals should stay at least six feet away from others at all times. Keeping space between you and others is one of the effective ways to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus and slowing its spread. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it’s important to stay away from others when possible, even if you have no symptoms.


Last Updated February 22, 2021