WSU Set to Transition to ‘Moderate-Risk’ Stage; Facilities Management Staff Steps up during COVID-19 Response
OGDEN, Utah – Beginning May 11, Weber State University will begin transitioning from its high risk stage of COVID-19 response to a moderate-risk stage that will allow some employees to return to campus as necessary.
All employees who can work remotely will be asked to do so through at least May 31. And while all buildings will remain closed, employee access to facilities will be eased for those who need to access their office or work spaces when necessary so long as they practice recommended public health guidelines, such as social distancing, wearing protective face coverings and limiting group gatherings to fewer than 20 people.
“The university will approach recovery efforts in a deliberate, incremental process,” said Dane LeBlanc, Weber State Public Safety director. “By easing restrictions in small steps, the university will have time to assess the impact of lifting specific restrictions, and return to previous guidelines if changes lead to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in our community or among our campus populations.”
During the moderate-risk stage, all public events at the Val A. Browning Center and Dee Events Center remain canceled through June 30. The Shepherd Union Building will remain closed through at least May 31 while testing centers and computer labs on campus will remain closed through the end of the 2020 summer session.
Keeping campus safe and clean
While much of Weber State’s faculty and staff have been working at home since campus closed in mid-March to help slow the spread of COVID-19, one department kept on working as usual.
As essential employees, Weber State’s Facilities Management department has largely remained on site — custodians and other staffers have been sanitizing classrooms still being used by faculty, deep cleaning campus buildings, and keeping up with landscaping and construction needs, among many of the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep campus running, whether students are there or not.
“Our staff has been amazing. They’ve really stepped up on being essential personnel. They really take ownership in their jobs,” said Weston Woodward services director. “I feel like they’ve done a great job.”
Around 150 custodial staff members help keep Weber State’s facilities clean and disinfected for other essential campus workers. When rooms are not in use, they’re deep cleaned and shut down, with a sign posted on the door advising passerby to stay out. Other parts of campus – like the swimming pool and athletics facilities – have been shut down entirely to anyone remaining on campus.
Once empty classrooms and offices are cleaned, custodians are primarily focused on high-traffic common areas in buildings and high touch points, such as door handles, Woodward said. Walls and under the desk surfaces are some of the other areas getting extra attention during this time.
“When the library was open, we were hitting that multiple times a day,” Woodward said. “With campus closed, we’re probably just going through the building once a day, but we’re going through it in really high detail.”
All disinfectants and cleaners used by Weber State are hospital-grade, said Mark Halverson, associate vice president for facilities and campus planning, and facilities personnel have been “aggressive” about making sure they’re effective against COVID-19.
“We’re doing everything we can to try and combat this,” Halverson said.
To protect themselves, custodial staff members are wearing gloves, masks and are frequently sanitizing computer equipment used by multiple employees. They’re practicing social distancing – something that’s fairly easy to do, Woodward said, as many custodial staff members are already assigned to specific areas to work.
The custodial staff also uses a color-coding system with cleaning rags to prevent cross-contamination from different types of surfaces.
Others facilities staff have had to make adjustments due to COVID-19 as well, Halverson said. Only one employee is allowed in fleet vehicles at a time, and the vehicles themselves are receiving extra sanitization once used. Some maintenance work orders have been put on hold, with unoccupied buildings receiving priority. The size of landscaping crews also have been scaled back.
Weber State’s ongoing construction projects on both the Ogden and Davis campuses have had minimal interruptions, and are on track to finish on schedule, Halverson said.
“Campus is pretty minimal use right now. People are honoring shelter-in-place and CDC recommendations,” Halverson said.
Custodian Elizabeth Selander, who manages cleaning in the library, said she’s confident that the work she and others facilities management staffers are doing is helping keep the rest of campus safe so Weber State can continue its educational mission.
“As custodians, we realize that we play an important role in providing a safe, clean environment for everyone who comes through our buildings,” Selander said.
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