Clarification of barrier mask requirement for UW Health facilities

Originally released November 18, 2020

Updated November 19, 2020 to add barrier mask ordering information for SMPH personnel if desired

The purpose of this message is to clarify the UW Health barrier mask requirement that took effect on Wednesday, November 18. This requirement states that everyone — providers, staff, patients, researchers, visitors, etc. — must wear, at minimum, a medical-grade barrier mask when in UW Health facilities (all spaces, including non-clinical areas). Cloth masks that many people wear do not meet this requirement.

This policy only applies to UW Health facilities, not SMPH facilities like the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR). Researchers and others who perform work solely in WIMR are not required to wear medical-grade barrier masks (though they may do so if they choose) and should continue wearing face coverings as they have been. Screeners at the entrances of buildings have been notified that mixed-use facilities, such as WIMR, do not fall under this new guideline.

However, those who go back and forth between campus and UW Health facilities throughout the day will need to wear a barrier mask when in UW Health facilities. If you enter a UW Health facility and do not have a barrier mask, one will be provided.

If your unit would like to place an order for medical-grade barrier masks or other personal protective equipment from the campus supply, primary SMPH locations (CSC, HSLC, WIMR, MFCB, MSC, & WisPIC) can place orders using this form and all other campus locations can use this form. Costs are covered by campus, not the requesting unit.

As a reminder, the face covering policy that covers SMPH and the rest of campus reads: “Masks must be worn on campus at all times and in all places (both outside and inside), except by students in their assigned residence hall rooms, by faculty and staff when alone in a private office, and when exercising outside and maintaining physical distance. This policy includes individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. Exceptions will be determined on an individual basis, considering reasonable accommodations due to a documented medical condition.”

Contact with questions.

For those with access to U-Connect, the original policy can be found here on U-Connect, which can be accessed by SMPH personnel when logged into the campus VPN. The policy is also pasted below.

Barrier Masks Required for Everyone in UW Health Facilities, Starting Wednesday, November 18

Starting on Wednesday, November 18, UW Health is requiring every person (providers, staff, patients, visitors, etc.) in UW Health facilities (all spaces, including non-clinical areas) to wear a minimum of a barrier mask protection.

There are specific reasons for making the change at this time:

  • As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our communities (locally and statewide), medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) barrier masks provide a higher level of protection than face coverings. Evidence suggests that moving everyone on the campus to the use of barrier masks provides a greater reduction in overall risk of transmission than adjusting the frequency with which current users of barrier masks are changing them out.
  • Our supply chain team is confident that our existing stocks and ability to replenish barrier masks is sufficient to handle this increased usage.

Unit leaders can order barrier masks by following the usual process through Central Supply. For those who have not ordered barrier masks previously, please see instructions for HC and other locations. Barrier masks will be available at authorized entry points, starting next week.

Barrier Mask Oracle Cloud item numbers:


All employees: Please understand that you are required to enter and exit all of our buildings wearing a barrier mask starting Wed, Nov 18. You will be handed a barrier mask at the entrance if you do not have one. Wearing a cloth face covering upon arrival, exit or any time during your work day is not permitted while onsite at our facilities.

Our partners, including UnityPoint Health-Meriter Hospital and SwedishAmerican Hospital, also are planning to make this change in the near future.

Please see additional guidance on masking and reuse.

Q: Will we require all visitors and patients to change to the barrier mask that we provide?
A: Yes.

Q: If a patient refuses to change their mask, will we refuse service?
A: Yes. Patients are required to wear the barrier mask that we provide to enter our buildings and to receive care/service.