Ventilation system upgrades, hospital-grade disinfectants and mandatory face coverings are all part of Texas Tech’s plan to reopen safely this fall.
While every new school year starts with a clean slate, this year's slate – and everything else at Texas Tech University – is going to be cleaner than usual, thanks to the widespread sanitization efforts underway to help keep everyone on campus as safe as possible.
These efforts are part of the Texas Tech Commitment, the university's pledge to create a safe campus environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the campus closed in March, staff members in the Operations Division have been working to upgrade facilities to meet new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among these upgrades are improvements to the ventilation system to limit air recirculation.
"The Building Maintenance & Construction department has spent the past several months performing preventative maintenance on all air handlers and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment around campus," said Sean Childers, associate vice president for Operations. "Filters have been changed and the units checked to ensure they are performing to optimum performance per CDC guidelines."
Going forward through the fall, campus spaces will be continually sanitized. The Custodial Services department incorporates the latest cleaning technologies – including hospital-grade disinfectants proven to kill viruses like COVID-19 – to ensure the utmost health and well-being of every person on campus.
In addition, they use an electrostatic application of disinfectants to complement the regular cleaning process. This process allows the team to disinfect areas that traditional cleaning methods may miss by applying an electrostatic charge to liquid disinfectants on all surfaces. Classrooms will be electrostatically fumed on a regular basis.
"In an effort to maintain high sanitization standards, the custodial team has been refocused to clean touchpoints and highly utilized spaces," Childers said. "Texas Tech will install additional hand-sanitizer units around campus along with areas where students can refill hand-sanitizer dispensers, pick up disinfectant wipes for cleaning classroom seating areas and handheld devices (per manufacturer guidelines), and pick up three-ply masks to kick off the school year."
Restrooms will be stocked with paper towels that can be used to open doors, and hand-sanitizer units will be placed outside higher-volume restrooms.
All dining locations on campus have undergone a deep and extensive sanitization process of all production, serving and high-traffic areas. Hospitality Services has increased the frequency of employee handwashing, glove-changing and overall cleaning procedures.
In residence halls, common spaces, elevators, laundry rooms and high-touch areas are the focus of increased cleaning efforts. Additionally, the main office of each hall will have cleaning supplies available for students to maintain their own spaces.
Likewise, faculty and staff members should be proactive about keeping their spaces sanitized.
"Departments and units are encouraged to arrange for staff to perform additional cleaning of common touch points like door handles, copy machine access panels and shared office supplies with appropriate disinfectants," said Matt Roe, assistant vice president for Environmental Health & Safety. "Be careful about using disinfectants incorrectly, though, as overexposure to cleaning chemical incidents have been increasing. Always follow the manufacturer's directions."
Even with such stringent sanitization measures, it is possible that someone on campus could end up with COVID-19.
"In the instance of a positive COVID-19 case," Childers said, "the Services department has created a response team that has been trained by Environmental Health & Safety to clean and disinfect contaminated areas."
Although the university certainly will be doing its part to sanitize the campus, it's important that the campus community does its part, too, by maintaining social distancing and wearing the mandatory face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"The most important thing departments and individuals can do is plan for reopening their area safely in accordance with university policies and CDC guidance," Roe said. "This directs proper social-distancing mitigation strategies, like plexiglass partitions for public access areas and appropriately wearing masks as a method of source control."