Team of Students to Encourage Face Coverings This Fall

Woman wearing Aggies-branded face covering.
Sequoia Erasmus, a graduate student studying transportation technology and policy and landscape design, models a branded face covering at the Davis Amtrak station. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Face coverings are now required on campus, but it isn’t just a formal policy that will direct their use this fall. UC Davis is hiring up to 250 students to be Aggie Public Health Ambassadors, models of healthy behavior who will be deployed at high-traffic locations across campus asking bare-faced passersby to cover up.

The ambassadors will also hand out free face coverings and give instructions on wearing them correctly (cover the nose and mouth); point people to hand-washing stations and COVID-19 screening kiosks (and answer questions about the screening); and provide tips on staying healthy.

“It’s going to take a collective effort from our Aggie community to keep everyone healthy this fall, and students are going to play a pivotal role as an active part of the solution,” said Kelly Ratliff, vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration.

While the Aggie Public Health Ambassadors will monitor the use of face coverings, and collect data, they will not collect names or report individual behavior.

Instead, they will promote “a positive culture of health, shared responsibility and personal accountability,” according to the job posting for the positions. They will also distribute prizes and enter into drawings people who wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and follow other public health guidelines and campus policy.

More than 300 students applied to be ambassadors, and the new hires will undergo a rigorous training program starting in the coming weeks. The Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine will oversee training and supervision for the program, in collaboration with Student Affairs.

Face coverings: When and where?

UC Davis’ policy on face coverings and other public health guidelines is now formalized for the duration of the pandemic, and requires them to be worn in all the situations recommended by the California Department of Public Health: indoors in spaces open to the public, while riding public transit, and in offices and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible.

Plastic face shields are not allowed to serve as substitutes for face coverings unless medically required, nor are face coverings with one-way valves allowed to be worn on campus.

“Masks with filter ports can increase the spread COVID-19,” UC Davis Health states. “They’re designed for people working around caustic fumes or chemicals — and they force out the air you’re breathing through the port. Instead of protecting someone from you, they propel your breath, and possibly droplets with the virus, even farther and more forcefully.”

Branded face coverings coming

Woman wearing face covering with "UC Davis" branding
Students who are staying in Davis this fall will receive a welcome kit with a branded face covering, hand sanitizer and more. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

UC Davis has already purchased 50,000 Aggie-branded face coverings, and will distribute one to each student in Davis in welcome kits that also include hand sanitizer gel, sanitizing wipes, a thermometer and a touchless door-opener tool. Employees will also receive branded face coverings.

Those who refuse to wear face coverings face disciplinary action — faculty and staff may be subject to corrective action under the appropriate employment policies, while students may be referred to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs.

The policy also formalizes the requirement to report positive COVID-19 tests to the university, stay away from campus for 14 days after testing positive, and the fact that construction workers coming on campus are required to take daily symptom surveys similar to those being administered to faculty, staff and students. The policy will be enforced by vice chancellors, deans, and department and unit heads, not the campus Police Department.

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