Can I use a mask with an external valve or vent?

Question: Can masks or N95 respirators that have an external valve or vent be used as part of universal masking at VUMC?

Answer: No. These types of masks do not protect others if the wearer has COVID-19 infection, and they are not permitted by CDC guidelines. The external valves/vents are designed to release unfiltered air and do not effectively remove the virus from exhaled breath in the event the wearer has COVID-19 infection. This vent does not impair the device’s filtration of inhaled air when worn as personal protective equipment to protect the wearer. For VUMC:

  • A face mask with an external valve/vent should not be used. If any workforce member, patient, or visitor does not have a mask without a valve/vent, one will be provided to them.
  • A VUMC provided N95 respirator with an external valve/vent should only be used if no other N95s are available, and, if used, a surgical mask should be worn over the vented N95.

See picture of vented mask: