Guidelines for Managing the Physical Environment
With the Fall 2020 semester approaching, we have developed Environmental Information and Guidelines to support the health and safety of our HHD community, given anticipated increased presence in on-campus facilities. However, please remember that the aspects of your work that can be effectively completed remotely should continue to occur at home whenever possible.
In HHD’s Environmental Information and Guidelines, we summarize the efforts and processes employed to keep the HHD physical environment as safe as possible, but bear in mind that modifying our behaviors is still the most important step that can be taken to reduce risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus.
When on campus, adhering to social distancing guidelines, face-covering guidelines, and continuing to practice increased hand hygiene are essential practices (summarized with excellent additional detail on best practices). These, combined with the University’s efforts to monitor the prevalence of infection and quarantine, and isolate the suspected and confirmed cases will be critical to a safe and sustained return to campus.
Accumulated evidence suggests that the predominant means of spread of COVID-19 is through person-to-person contact (see CDC high-level summary on transmission and the WHO’s latest high-level summary of transmission). The role of “fomites” (the term used to refer to transmission from inanimate objects) appears limited, but is possible and is difficult to distinguish in an outbreak investigation from person-to-person spread. The role of aerosol (very small particles lingering in the air) spread also appears limited but is also possible (we do know that wearing a face covering will be very effective in reducing the possibility of aerosol spread by keeping exhaled droplets from evaporating in the air and releasing aerosolized virus particles). However, there is no doubt that we still have much to learn about the transmission dynamics of COVID-19, and in the spirit of applying an abundance of caution, the college is recommending the guidelines herein be followed with respect to our physical environment.
Resource for Following Transmission Dynamic Science
Those interested can follow the developing scientific literature on COVID-19 transmission dynamics through a continually updated index of published papers and pre-published manuscripts maintained by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine based at the University of Oxford. Studies included meet published CEBM open evidence review protocol criteria and may not capture all emerging studies. As we follow evolving literature (and/or the media coverage of it) we all need to remember what we teach our students – that each individual study has its own flaws, that the findings may not apply to different groups or settings, and that no one study typically provides “the answer” to a complex question.
Thanks to everyone in advance for their collective efforts. It is my sincere hope that we can return to campus in a measured and safe manner in order to provide our students with the educational experiences they deserve and to move forward our life-changing science.
Craig J. Newschaffer
Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean
HHD Environmental Information and Guidelines
- OPP Enhanced Cleaning Procedures
OPP will implement an enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures campus-wide. Critical elements include:
- OPP will replace all-purpose and general-purpose cleaners with Betco® Quat Stat 5™ for daily cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Quat Stat 5™ has been approved by the EPA as effective against coronavirus.
- OPP Custodial will clean and disinfect restrooms once daily, M-F. Surfaces disinfected will include toilets and toilet handles, urinals and urinal handles, sinks and sink faucets, paper/soap/feminine hygiene dispensers, floors, stall door handles, and restroom entrance handles and push plates using Quat Stat 5™.
- For the exterior of building entrances OPP will disinfect door handles and push plates, and frequently touched surfaces like the ADA automatic door opening buttons using a Microfiber cloth with Quat Stat 5™ once daily, M-F.
- For the interior of buildings all desks, podiums, conference tables, interior doorknobs, interior door push plates, handrails, light switches, and all other surfaces identified as high touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected using a Microfiber cloth and Quat Stat 5™ once daily (M-F). OPP identified room types: restrooms, classrooms, corridors, lobbies, stairwells, elevators, research labs, computer labs, conference rooms, kitchenettes, break rooms, workshops, work rooms, fitness rooms and locker rooms.
Individual and group offices will not be subject to the enhanced high-touch area cleaning by OPP mentioned immediately above. See Guidelines for Disinfecting Individual and Group Offices below for recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting these areas in individual and group offices. OPP will continue to vacuum offices on a bi-weekly basis. OPP has adjusted custodial schedules with greater emphasis on 1st and 2nd shifts (reduced 3rd shift). Units can expect to encounter custodial staff and crews more consistently during the day.
Additional details on OPP procedures and schedules is available in the Updated Cleaning and Disinfection Procedures in Response to Coronavirus document from Environmental Health and Safety.
Note that when a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified, OPP is prepared to immediately respond and perform a level-2 sanitation cleaning of spaces that a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive individual inhabited (according to best available public health guidance).
- Individual and Group Offices
Density control (occupancy)
Multi-person occupancy of all offices should adhere to the six-foot radius social distancing guideline. When this can not be adhered to, meetings should convene in a space allowing for appropriate distancing. Local units are responsible for any modification of the physical layout (either through taping, seat removal, etc) of all multi-person offices not conducive to social distancing. Any units seeking assistance with signage, supplies or furniture rearrangements should contact Kevin Kelliher or Ryan Golas. Because multi-person offices are often part of principal investigator’s research space, unit heads are urged to engage PIs in conversations about safe occupancy. The College’s Research Office will also communicate with PIs about management of these spaces.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning using general purpose cleaners, detergents, soap and or water that removes visible foreign matter is, of course, good practice and can be helpful in eliminating COVID-19 on surfaces. However, we are at this point recommending the routine use of an approved disinfectant, products demonstrated to kill virus on surfaces or objects, as described below.
Frequently touched surfaces in offices being regularly used should be disinfected daily, including: desktops and all work surfaces, light switches, doorknobs/handles, access key pads, computer equipment (monitors, keyboards, mice, remotes, tablets, laptops), telephones, chairs/arm rests, commonly used office supplies (staplers, scissors, dry erase supplies, etc.) The responsibility for doing this is that of the occupant.
Shared workstations should be disinfected by the user at the beginning and end of each use.
We suggest that all workstations, but especially shared workstations, re-organize following these recommendations:
- Attempt to reduce desktop and work area clutter. Store unnecessary supplies, equipment and other materials that are used on an infrequent basis in a nearby drawer.
- Evaluate the personal items on the workstation and determine which are necessary. Remove or store items to simplify the cleaning and disinfecting steps.
- Attempt to set aside a few minutes at the end of each shift to maintain workstation organization.
Disinfection should be completed using products that contain the appropriate concentrations of active ingredients for disinfection. The college will be supplying academic departments, research centers, and central offices with appropriate cleaning supplies. Our goal is to ensure an adequate amount of product to achieve our hygiene goals while being responsible stewards of the supply chain. Our recommendation is that offices that will be occupied daily have their own cleaning product supply but that offices occupied less regularly share centrally held supply stores when practicable. Procedures on the distribution of these supplies will be shared with unit administrative leads later in August.
The Disinfect section on the CDC website for Cleaning and Disinfecting contains useful recommendations on the safe application of EPA-registered disinfectants and guidance on computer cleaning is available through EHS.
- Conference Rooms
Density control (occupancy)
The maximum capacity for HHD conference rooms has been adjusted to 50% of the maximum fire code capacity and signs displaying the adjusted capacity have been posted outside each conference room. Furniture in conference rooms will not have been removed/stored to match the reduced maximum capacity; however, other measures have been introduced to assist with room utilization. Furniture that is not in service will be labelled with “Stay Well” tape. Items labelled with this tape should not be used or relocated and the tape should not be removed.
Stay Well tape used to mark furniture that is not in service
Conference tables have been labelled with decals on the surface that are a premeasured minimum distance of 6’ apart. Attendees should sit in a seat that corresponds with a decal and only use seats that correspond with a decal to ensure compliance with the maximum COVID capacity. In instances where the maximum COVID capacity for a room exceeds the available number of decals (due to table/room geometry), additional seats away from the tables (up to the maximum capacity) can be used as long as they remain 6’ away from occupied seats.
Cleaning and disinfecting
As mentioned, OPP will disinfect the high touch surfaces of each conference room once daily, M-F. In addition, HHD will provide disinfectant supplies for each conference room in HHD buildings. Users of conference rooms are expected to use the disinfecting supplies on the high touch areas, in addition to general clean up, at the conclusion of each event/meeting. Appropriate signage and instructions will be provided in each conference room.
- HHD Atriums, Lounges, and Open Areas Outside of Unit Footprints
Density control (occupancy)
Similar to conference rooms, the furniture in the atriums and lounges will not have been removed/stored. Furniture in these locations has been rearranged and distributed across these areas to satisfy the social distancing requirements. Furniture that is not in service has been labelled with the “Stay Well” tape and tables with seating have been labelled with the “Stay 6’ Apart” decals at a premeasured minimum distance of 6’ apart. Only the seats that correspond with a decal should be used.
Cleaning and disinfecting
As mentioned, OPP will clean these areas five times per week with high-touch-area disinfecting.
- Other Common Areas within Unit Footprints
Density control (occupancy)
Local units may restrict access to these areas (reception areas, lounges, workrooms) or to equipment within these areas as needed.
Cleaning and disinfecting
As mentioned, OPP will clean offices on a bi-weekly schedule and disinfect restrooms, corridors, lobbies, stairwells, elevators, conference rooms, kitchenettes, break rooms and work rooms once daily, M-F. Guidelines for additional cleaning and disinfecting of these areas will be established by the unit within which the area is housed.
- Plexiglass Barriers
OPP is recommending plexiglass barriers only in front of high traffic/high-volume, face-to-face interaction counters (e.g., food service, libraries, registrar) with the public. In lower volume interactions (reception desks, open office settings, etc.) density control, social distancing and masking should be the principal approaches. If you do believe your unit has a need for the installation of a plexiglass barrier please first contact the HHD Facilities team, Kevin Kelliher or Ryan Golas. The college is prepared to consider funding equipment that is required in a comprehensive COVID response.
- Ventilation and Air Filtering
As mentioned above, there are still many unknowns about transmission dynamics of COVID-19, including the role of aerosolized spread. Nonetheless, OPP has mobilized a team of more than 12 engineers and building automation analysts working to analyze and improve wherever possible indoor air conditions on the UP campus in accordance with guidelines from CDC, PA DOH, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). OPP is focusing on both outside air intakes and transitioning to high-efficiency filters.
- Restroom Occupancy
OPP is not recommending any occupant limitations to restrooms. Remember that handwashing is a cornerstone strategy to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. In addition, universal masking, coupled with the limited time in shared space, limits exposure risk. All bathrooms are designed to be exhaust-ventilated to the outside, which maintains negative pressure (to prevent odors from leaving the bathroom) and keeps the air exchange rate higher in these than in other spaces.
- Building Pedestrian Traffic: Entrances, Stairwells and Elevators
Consistent with OPP action, we do not expect there to be significant modification or restriction to HHD building pedestrian traffic. For example, OPP does not recommend the implementation of directional traffic patterns for stairwells (up/down) due to the potential confusion signage may cause during an emergency (stay right in both directions to maximize space for passing). OPP will not modify the operation of elevators but, as mentioned, daily cleaning with high-touch-area disinfection will occur. While we recognize that this may lead moments when six-foot distancing is challenging, time in closer proximity in these settings should be limited in duration. Whenever feasible, the use of stairways in lieu of elevators to transit floors is encouraged.
- Exterior and Interior Door Operations
Exterior building doors cannot be propped opened. As mentioned, all door handles will be disinfected once each weekday. Hand sanitizer stations will be located near all building entrances/exits. Interior doors that are not fire doors may be propped open.