KN95 masks

UA community members wear KN95 masks on campus. Associated Student Government members recently received a shipment of 150,000 CI95 masks — which have a similar protection level to KN95s — purchased for distribution to students, faculty and staff.

UA Associated Student Government members acquired 150,000 CI95 masks with university funding, and they are available for students, faculty and staff to pick up on campus.

The masks have a protection level equal to or greater than K95-rated masks, and are certified to block 98% of particles measuring .3 microns or larger. They are available for pickup in Old Main, the Arkansas Union information desk, Bell Engineering Center, various dining locations, the ASG office and several other locations on campus.

“We felt like (providing masks) was the right thing to do to make sure we’re doing our part as students, while also making sure we’re respecting the health and safety of everyone around us,” said ASG president Coleman Warren.

ASG received funding from the student-run Programming Allocations Board, which allocates the funds raised by the student activity fee, and had supplemental funding from programs that were canceled because of the pandemic, Warren said.

With a budget of $15,000, ASG leaders were able to purchase more masks than they had originally planned.

“We think these masks will help people to spread the virus a lot less to those around them,” Warren said. “They’ll also allow us to be next to other people for a longer period of time without spreading COVID-19 at all.”

As of Feb. 17, masks are no longer required in on-campus facilities other than classrooms, labs, Razorback Transit buses and most indoor areas where 6-foot social distancing is not possible. Masks are recommended but not required in dining areas, exercise areas and sporting events.

So far, ASG members have distributed more than 30,000 masks to students, faculty and staff, Warren said.

Gary Jackson, ASG director of physical health and wellness, first suggested providing masks after realizing how hard KN95 masks were to acquire and after Interim Provost Terry Martin announced Jan. 21 that university officials recommended wearing them for maximum protection.

“Considering how we have around 29,000 students, it would be very difficult to actually maintain a certain level of safety (without the masks),” Jackson said.

Jackson has been using CI95 masks since the shipment arrived Feb. 15. Wearing it makes him feel safer and like he is protecting those around him, he said. They are also more comfortable and easier to breathe in than disposable surgical masks.

Matthew Tribble, a sophomore and ASG member, has been using the CI95 masks for almost two weeks. It makes him feel safer and is preferable to double-masking, as he did previously, he said.

“When omicron was starting to really ramp up again, I would actively double-mask with a disposable mask and a cloth mask,” Tribble said, “and that was a bit more inconvenient than I would’ve liked it to be.”

KN95s and medical-grade masks provide the strongest protection against COVID-19, with cloth masks providing the weakest, according to Mayo Clinic.

“A (cloth) mask is better than no mask at all,” Tribble said. “However, if you have the resources at hand, why not take that opportunity?” 

Dr. Huda Sharaf, the Pat Walker Health Center medical director, said in an email that the best way to contain the spread of COVID-19 is to wear masks indoors, practice respiratory hygiene and get the vaccine and booster.

About 82% of Arkansas-resident students and 90.8% of faculty and staff have at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the PWHC COVID-19 Dashboard. There were 31 active cases of COVID-19 on campus during the Feb. 14-20 reporting period.

“These masks are something that can help us get over this quicker,” Jackson said. “Just having these available on campus to students is something we enjoyed being able to do as the Associated Student Government.”

ASG is open to continuing to supply masks indefinitely, but it depends on what happens with the virus, Warren said. In the meantime, members are focused on distributing the masks ASG has now.

Jackson said he hopes everyone will continue doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19, he said.

“We’re looking forward to not having to wear masks, hopefully, in the fall,” Jackson said. “In the meantime, everyone who does their part in helping to keep the campus safe, both for themselves and others, we (thank) you.”

Those with questions on how to pick up a CI95 mask can email Gary Jackson at

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