Campus Health and Safety Measures

The Division of Facilities Planning and Management staff have spent the summer streamlining cleaning processes to ensure we can clean classrooms between classes during the fall semester while also maintaining cleanliness in residence halls. Please find details below of measures being taken to ensure students, faculty, and staff have a healthy and safe campus experience.

Updated August 21, 2020

  • Additional Cleaning

    In response to a need for increased cleaning, University custodial staff is currently supported by contracted cleaners working the overnight shift. The contracted cleaners are performing the traditional vacuuming, dusting, and floor cleaning of classrooms, offices, restrooms, and lounge areas in addition to disinfection overnight. During the day, custodial staff will be performing the traditional cleaning tasks as well as increased touchpoint cleaning in common areas in all working and living spaces on campus. Additionally, classrooms will be sanitized between classes. 

    All classroom, conference room, and office doors are marked with a placard when they have been cleaned. If a faculty or staff member uses a room that is marked with a "clean" placard, they should remove the notice so that custodial staff know to clean the space. The placard can be placed on a door knob inside that room so it can be reused and updated when the room is cleaned again. 

  • Touchpoint Cleaning

    In accordance with CDC guidance, the University has increased touchpoint cleaning. Custodial Services supervisors continually review adherence to the protocol and strive for improvements. 

    Touch-point cleaning consists of using approved disinfectant in all campus facilities once daily as noted below:  

    • Light switches, door knobs/handles, interior handrails, elevator buttons, ATM machines, vending machines, common-area furniture and common area computer lab keyboards, conference room tables, classroom tables and desks.  

    Touch-point cleaning consists of using approved disinfectant in campus facilities at least twice a day in high traffic buildings as noted below:

    • Pryzbyla Center, DuFour Center, Law School, Mullen Library, Leahy Hall 

    Cleaning staff will not move papers and items on surface areas (such as desks or conference room tables) to clean these personal spaces. Employees can greatly assist by cleaning personal spaces on a regular basis. 

    Custodial Services cleans common areas of residence halls, such as lounges, common bathroom facilities, common kitchens (including appliances).  Residents are responsible to clean their personal spaces, including private bathrooms. 

  • Sanitizing

    Sanitizing residential and classroom spaces to the degree the University aims to meet has required collaborative engineering and creative solutions. An established University vendor created a new spray nozzle designed to transform off-the-shelf sprayers used for paint into mist cleaners. With this device, staff are able to quickly move from room to room and apply a light mist of disinfectant. The EPA-registered disinfectant — vital oxide — leaves little to no residual odor and can clean a room the size of Gowan Auditorium (up to approximately 2,700 square feet) in approximately three minutes. 

    The University has also purchased portable germicidal ultraviolet (GUV) units that emit UVC light energy from 200 to 280 nanometers (nm) — the established threshold for disinfection. These will be used in select targeted spaces with high occupancy loads and/or other factors such as high-touch surfaces which may otherwise be difficult to clean using more traditional methods. Such spaces may include athletics facilities, Student Health Services exam rooms, music and drama performance spaces, and nursing labs. 

  • Air Quality

    The University continues to monitor the evolving guidance of the D.C. Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and industry and professional organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).  

    Experts agree that COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Therefore, face coverings, physical and social distancing, hygiene, and surface cleaning are the most effective tools for risk mitigation. The University’s Return to Campus Plan includes all of these actions to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

    There are some areas where experts’ statements differ and recommendations on air quality seemingly conflict. Some guidance is aimed at potentially reducing risk from the possibility that spread may also occur via airborne particles in indoor environments. For this reason, the Facilities team continues to evaluate building systems and indoor air quality conditions in all campus buildings with the support of consulting architects and engineers.  Many recommendations that may further reduce transmission risk are being implemented where possible and feasible.

    Increasing ventilation with outdoor air and improving air filtration are among these recommendations. The HVAC systems on campus vary in age and design, so not every general recommendation is applicable. The modifications must be carefully balanced so that employing one improvement does not counteract with another; for example, upgrading to a filter grade that a particular system was not designed to accommodate could interfere with the system’s overall ventilation capacity.  

    The guidance also recognizes that increasing ventilation with outside air may not always be possible or feasible; however, the effective rate of ventilation per person can be increased by limiting occupancy of indoor spaces.  

    Adjustments to our HVAC systems and operations are considered additional layers of a larger strategy that includes these essential fundamentals:  social distancing to reduce the occupancy load, wearing face coverings, increased surface cleaning, and frequent hand washing.

  • Natural Ventilation

    According to the CDC and other sources, it has been advised that facilities should increase the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, which potentially can include the opening of windows and doors to allow natural ventilation into the specific spaces. 

    This statement however is caveated by the balancing of potential risks that could follow as a result of doing so. Several buildings on campus have operable windows that could be opened to allow fresh air to directly ventilate the associated space. However, this strategy is NOT an ASHRAE supported means of infection risk reduction. 

    Open windows in public spaces introduce uncontrolled airflow and environmental conditions, including potential moisture accumulation within the building and sudden freezing conditions in winter months. Additionally, open windows introduce uncontrolled wind gusts with random patterns of turbulent air distribution. 

    Mechanically ventilated spaces provide more stable airflows, which help direct air in a more controlled manner. The use of operable windows is not typically used in the design of publicly occupied spaces due to its uncontrolled introduction of unfiltered outside air, which can cause uncontrollable changes in temperature and moisture levels in the building.  

    Nonetheless, partial opening of windows during temperate and mild outdoor weather conditions may be considered as a means of introducing additional outside air to a particular space.  Please contact Facilities with questions about specific rooms or space.
  • Additional Measures for Classroom Safety

    Every classroom and teaching space on campus was studied this summer to determine how to rearrange seating in order to provide for the implementation of social distancing. In rooms with fixed seating, signs have been placed on seats that should not be used in order to provide at least 6 feet of space between students. 

    There is now at least nine feet of space (a three foot teaching zone plus six feet) from the front of the room to the first row of student seating for instructors. Should faculty want to teach behind a physical barrier, the University is currently procuring and installing portable plexiglass barriers. 

    As a result of the D.C. Mayor’s mask mandate, no student should arrive to a class without a mask. However, if they do, there will be masks available in each building for faculty to have on hand to offer to students. 

    The traffic flow in buildings was also examined. Especially in high-traffic areas, directional signage has been placed on floors and stairways to help promote social distancing as people move through the buildings. In buildings with multiple stairwells, some have been designated as “up” or “down” paths.