ALBUQUERQUE — The University of New Mexico is stiffening its masking mandate to require that the face coverings worn by students and employees be of more protective medical or health grade.

The university said Thursday the stiffened mandate taking effect next Tuesday requires three-ply or better medical and health procedure masks and means that cloth masks may be worn on top of the more protective masks but not alone.

President Garnett S. Stokes said in a campus-wide message the stiffened requirement for more protective masks follows the latest advice from scientific experts “given the significant rise in cases and the apparent increased contagiousness of the omicron variant.”

“We are continuing to take a data-driven, evidence-based approach to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our campuses and across our community,” Stokes said.

The university said it will provide masks in multiple locations.

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.

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