COVID-19 FAQs

Updated February 18, 2021 | 3:00 p.m.

 

 

Additional COVID-19 Resources

Please click the following link for additional information: https://uci.edu/coronavirus/faq/index.php#reengaging-operations

Face Coverings

Yes. According to UCI’s Executive Directive, all individuals on UCI-controlled property are required to wear face coverings in order to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the UCI community. This directive also applies to off-site work conducted by UCI employees and is subject to change. Current directives and advisories are available at: https://uci.edu/coronavirus

All individuals on UCI controlled property must wear a cloth face-covering outside their home/apartment/residence hall room (living unit) when they are not able to maintain at least six feet of physical distance from another person who is not a family/household member or does not reside in the same living unit. This includes the wearing of face-coverings in labs, classrooms and populated outdoor spaces. Face-coverings must comply with relevant policies applicable to the wearer, including but not limited to student code of conduct and employee policies. In addition, staff should follow posted signs, department specific procedures and if they have any questions consult their supervisor regarding worksite specific face covering requirements.

Wearing cloth face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by people who may not know that they are infected with the virus. Although they are not surgical masks or N95 respirators, cloth face coverings are easy to find and can be washed and reused. Face coverings combined with other preventative practices, such as frequent handwashing and physical distancing, help slow the spread of infection.
N95s are primarily used for medical purposes.  If you choose to wear one, you need to comply with the campus Respiratory Protection Program

In order to assist Campus departments in providing face coverings as we ramp-up operations, EH&S will be scheduling cotton face covering pick up services on the days and times listed below. Once you receive an email confirmation, please go to EH&S to pick up the face coverings. When picking up the supplies, please adhere to appropriate physical distancing practices.

HOW:
Have your supervisor email a request with the department name and number of employees to safety@uci.edu. EH&S will respond with a pick up day and time for the request.

WHERE:
Environmental Health & Safety Department (4600 Health Sciences Road - Building 41 on the campus map)

DATES:
Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Note: Student Affairs will be distributing face coverings to students. EH&S pick-ups are for Campus employees only.

For your safety and the safety of others, additional face coverings are available at select locations.

• Please only take one

• Text or email safety@uci.edu if container is empty or running low

Here are the select locations:

• Pippen Dining Commons - entrance

• Brandywine Dining Commons - entrance

• Parking Structure Kiosk across from Student Center; contact parking attendant

• Anteater Learning Pavilion – entrance of building contact Son Nguyen

• Engineering Tower - loading Dock contact Mike Kennedy or Dennis Aldridge

• School of Law – contact Garth Revtyak

• Med Sci C –stack – contact Jeff Dillon

• McGaugh Hall loading dock room 1439F contact Robyn Stifler

• Anteater Recreation Center (ARC) - front desk

• FRESH Hub every Wednesday 11-4pm and Thursdays 1-4pm.

Cloth face coverings:

  • Perform hand hygiene before handling the cloth face covering
  • Wear the clean cloth face covering by securing it with ties, ear loops, or tying behind the head
  • Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably against side of the face
  • Make sure hands are clean if any adjustments are needed

Bandanas and other materials:

  • Wrap around your face covering your nose and mouth
  • Secure by tying a knot or use a safety pin.

To remove all types of face coverings:

  • Perform hand hygiene before removing the cloth face covering
  • Carefully remove the face covering by loosening the ties or ear loops
  • Do not touch eyes, nose and mouth when removing face covering
  • Place used cloth face covering in a clean bag or container to be stored until it can be reused or cleaned
  • Immediately wash hands after removing face covering

EH&S does not recommend wearing FR Nomex material face coverings. The process used in making FR material face coverings is controversial. Concerns have been raised about the residual flame retardant that may be present in the material and its potential adverse health effects through inhalation. As such, EH&S does not advise use of these face coverings.
  • When soiled or dirty, wash the cloth face covering using a washing machine
  • The frequency of washing is dependent on frequency of use. It is recommended that the face covering be washed at least daily per CDC guidelines
  • Wash items as appropriate to the cloth material or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry completely before storage and reuse
  • Store clean cloth face covering in a clean bag or container until it can be reused
  • Containers used to store used or dirty face coverings shall be cleaned prior to reuse
  • There are differing opinions out there on whether face shields are better than face coverings.  Disposable and reusable face shields are most frequently worn by health care professionals over a surgical mask who may be exposed to droplets that contain coronavirus.  Some articles state that face shields are best used in combination with a face covering while some state that face shields alone do not provide source control when an individual is sneezing or coughing.  Some articles plainly state that face shields have a limited ability to fully protect against droplets and are not effective in providing protection to the individual wearing the face shield or to others around them.  There is not enough data or studies performed yet to form a scientific conclusion.
  • For K-12 Schools and in child care situations, face shields are suggested for teachers and care givers in order for learners and children to see facial expressions, which may add to the learner’s and children’s experience. 
  • EH&S does not recommend wearing face shields in place of face coverings.  Face shields aren’t positioned close enough to the face to block what may be transmitted when an individual coughs or sneezes.  Outside of a clinical setting, face shields are not necessary if you are wearing a face covering.  According to the CDC, they “recommend wearing a cloth face covering as a measure to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets and help protect their co-workers and members of the general public.”  With face shields being in short supply, we recommend wearing face coverings instead of face shields as much as possible.  For situations where the individual may have medical conditions that prohibit them from wearing a face covering, a face shield may be a good alternative.  Additionally, when employees are working in warm weather or hot conditions, we recommend wearing a scarf or bandana or wetting the face covering with clean potable water for a cooling effect.

 

Air Quality Related to COVID-19 Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Aerosol transmission through the HVAC system has been suggested, but the available information to back up this claim has been speculative at best. Almost all buildings that you enter, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and medical offices will have a combination of outside and recirculated air. In any case, ALL supplied air (100% outside, recirculated, or a combination) goes through filters before it is distributed to a space.

A number of online conversations refer to the installation of MERV-12 filters for the AC systems. The air handlers at UCI typically use MERV-15 filters, which are hospital grade air filtration media that are highly effective at capturing many contaminants. A few smaller buildings, or buildings with package type HVAC units are not designed to accommodate Merv 14+ filters. In such cases, we use the most efficient available filters for these areas, which are serviced and changed more frequently.


Aerosol transmission based on the air dynamics in a room depends on the airflow pattern of the room, the point of release, and the point of reception. Current knowledge has shown that other mechanisms for spreading the virus are likely to be more significant. These mechanisms include:
• direct person to person contact
• indirect contact through inanimate objects like doorknobs
• through the hands to mucous membranes such as those in the nose, mouth and eyes
• droplets and possibly particles spread between people in close proximity.

For this reason, basic principles of social distancing, surface cleaning and disinfection, handwashing and other strategies of good hygiene are far more important than anything related to the HVAC system.

If you are able to find and “open air” meeting space, you are welcome to convene your meeting there. However, keep in mind that “Open air” does not mean contaminant-free air. Anyone in the path of the air currents (wind) will be exposed to anyone upstream. There will be more particles in the air outside than there are particles inside a building with filtration.

Ultraviolet light has been used for years to kill or inactivate microorganisms. Inactivation/kill rates depend on several variables including the specific microbial. UV light also loses its efficiency as the light ages. The effectiveness of UV-C at inactivating airborne microorganisms such as SARS-CoV2 is limited because exposure time is on the order of seconds or fractions of seconds due to the rapid movement of air through the air handler.

Simply put, UV light may be ineffective when used to treat the airstream because the air simply moves too fast and limits the exposure time to UV light.

There is a great deal of discussion on this topic and we are constantly monitoring the CDC, WHO, ASHRAE and other experts publication with respect to guidance for HVAC system in relation to COVID-19.
We are currently looking at elevator use to determine the best course in limiting ridership.

Maintaining social distance in closed quarters will be a challenge, which is why many of the health agencies emphasize the continuous use of face coverings, good hand hygiene, and conscientious housekeeping strategies.

Bathrooms are typically under negative pressure in relation to contiguous spaces. Increasing the supply air will upend that relationship and cause bathroom air to migrate out. Bathroom exhaust fans are limited in their ability to be increased.

Water Quality and the Campus Water System

Although access to several campus buildings was limited in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the campus never closed, and water use continued. The campus did not idle cooling towers, pools, or fountains and maintains water treatment through inhouse staff that remained as part of our essential workforce.

Potential issues:
  • Build-up of sediments in pipes, can contribute to mechanical issues and bacterial growth
  • Loss of disinfectant residual, which is needed to control microbial contamination
  • Corrosion of pipes and fittings which can increase the lead and copper levels in the system.
  • Growth of bacteria in water treatment equipment such as softeners and filters, plumbing fixtures, and hot water heaters that have not been in use regularly.
All these potential issues are muted through the continuous custodial operations, lab operations, and other water uses of the campus. In addition to the continued operations the trades staff exercised bottle filling stations, water fountains, and sinks on campus.
The CDC recently updated their published guidance document that outlines steps to take during and before reopening a building to reduce the risk from the hazards previously mentioned. Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Management reviewed the status of campus buildings, the level of closure that took place on the UCI campus, and best practices from CDC, WHO, and information from local water districts.

The campus buildings never officially closed and water use in buildings continued throughout the campus work curtailment. As an additional level of precaution, Facilities Management exercised the water flow thru drinking fountains and hydration stations, beyond the water use in kitchens, and restrooms whose fixtures are operated during custodial cleaning operations.

As an extra preventive measure and to ensure the freshest possible water, on return to campus you may choose to run faucets, sinks, and drinking fountains prior to use.

In addition, the Plumbing shop never ceased the scheduled and routine testing of the emergency eyewashes and showers, thereby ensuring that water never stagnated in those fixtures.

Nonetheless, if you are an occupant of a building with a water system and storage (hot water heaters) that are separate from the campus lines, please contact EH&S for a consultation on the best course of action.

Fortunately, the campus already follows the CDC guidelines outlined above and has procedures in place to manage the campus water system, including a campus Water Management Plan that
  • includes system maintenance, water treatment, shutdown and start-up procedures, and waterborne pathogen testing and prevention;
  • identifies responsible persons for every step of the Water Management Plan;
  • and follows the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines for cooling towers and related equipment.
The campus Water Management Plan covers all water systems in Central Plant, including boilers, chillers, chilled water, HTHW, Cooling Towers, etc. It also covers closed loop systems in the buildings such as; building heat, chilled water, process cooling, boilers, etc. Utilities Operations also oversees water treatment for the Crawford Hall Pool. Many of our staff members at Certified Pool Operators.
As a returning building occupant, you can supplement the procedures already implemented and practiced by Facilities Management by:
  • Reporting low or no water pressure immediately to your Building Manager or Facilities Management;
  • Flushing your local water system;
    • Building flushing should increase chlorine residuals;
      • Make sure that fixture drains are functioning and can handle expected flows without overflowing
      • During flushing operate all valves in the fully open position so that any particulate matter can be flushed through. Pay close attention to float-operated or other restrictive valves which need to be manually opened to clear particulates and prevent fouling of the valves
    • Creating a list of all plumbing fixtures that will need to be flushed including ice machines, dish washers, and point of use (POU) treatment devices to ensure that no fixture is overlooked. Point of use filters should be replaced.
      • Ice machines, laboratory space ice machines maintained by Facilities Management remained in continuous service and have received normal standard maintenance
  • Cleaning all decorative water features, such as fountains
    • Follow any recommended manufacturer guidelines for cleaning
    • Ensure that decorative water features are free of visible slime or biofilm

After the water feature has been re-filled, measure disinfectant levels to ensure that the water is safe for use.

Bottled Water Dispenser and Drinking Water System Units

  • There are safety concerns with drinking bottled water from a unit that has not been used or flushed out for extended periods of time.
  • Based on information provided by the CDC , there is no evidence COVID-19 is transmitted through drinking water, recreational water, or wastewater. The risk of COVID-19 transmission through water is expected to be low. The standards for bottled water are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA bases its standards on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards for tap water.
  • Contact the manufacturer and follow steps based on their recommendations.
    • For water provided by Nestle Waters North America (our Campus primary water provider), they provide a service which is offered at a cost of $59.99 based on the most current price agreement:

      • Bottled Water Service Vendor contact info:
        Lucrecia Castellon | Key Account Manager
        Nestlé Waters North America
        619 North Main Street Orange, California 92868
        M 714-337-8447 | F 714-639-9471
        lucrecia.castellon@waters.nestle.com

  • For all other vendor information, contact Procurement Services or if the unit has a label, contact them with the information provided on the unit.
Manufacturer suggests routine cleaning and maintenance be done twice a year.
  • Discard the partially used (opened) bottle.
  • Drain the unit’s reservoir and thoroughly clean the unit in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations or you can get the dispenser cleaned or serviced by an outside service provider.
  • Read the label on your bottled water. While there is currently no standardized label for bottled water, this label may tell you about the way the bottled water is treated.
  • Check the label for a toll-free number or Web page address of the company that bottled the water. This may be a source of further information.
  • Use the dispensers with a new water bottle after verifying the “Best By” date on the bottle.
    • A “Best By” date, which applies only to unopened products, is a 2 year or 1 1/2 year shelf life window, depending on the product, by which the consumer may measure "the age" of the water. You know it has been bottled 2 years, or 1 1/2 years, prior to the “best by” date on the bottle.
  • Wash hands before changing a water bottle.
  • Gently wipe down the surface area of the equipment using the appropriate disinfectant.
  • Wipe down the dispenser with disinfectant around the water-dispensing hot and cold spigots, levers or faucets.
  • Wipe the top and neck of the new bottle with a clean sterile cloth.
  • Remove the drip tray and wash with mild dishwashing soap.
  • Do not touch the end of the water cooler with your hands or any items such as glasses, cups, or small water bottles that have come into contact with your mouth. 
  • Continue with a no-contact water delivery service. If you have any special instructions, communicate with the vendor via email, by phone, or leave a note for your delivery person.

Elevators and Physical Distancing

There are unique challenges in maintaining physical distancing inside elevators due to their relatively small size and limited ventilation. 

  • Per the CDC recommendations, riders must maintain 6 feet of spacing inside elevators, even when wearing face coverings
  • Most UCI elevators can transport between 2 to 4 people at a time, depending on the size of the elevator, while maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing between riders
  • Follow posted elevator occupancy signage (when applicable)
  • Please be aware of persons with disabilities when using elevators and make space so that they can use the elevator when needed
  • Always practice social distancing when waiting in line for an elevator or entering/exiting an elevator
Yes, the following signs will be available in each campus elevator:
  • Occupancy of each elevator cab indicating maximum occupancy located on each floor in front of elevator doors.
  • Signs and markings on the floors indicating where riders should wait for an elevator
  • Reminders to limit touching of any surfaces while riding the elevator
  • Taking stairs whenever necessary to prevent wait lines from becoming overcrowded

Process for Reporting Campus COVID-19 Cases

Please click on the following link for additional information: https://hr.uci.edu/disaster-relief/report-known-cases.php

Glove Use

  • Glove use is not necessary while avoiding potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus and wearing them can create a false sense of security.  Instead, after performing work activities, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water, and practice other preventative measures, such as wearing a face covering and practicing physical distancing.  While using cleaning and disinfecting agents, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • For staff performing frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, follow PPE recommendations as directed by EH&S.

Ergonomics For Remote Working

EH&S has put together a list of recommended ergonomic accessories available through Amazon located at: UCI Amazon Ergonomic Idea List. This list includes cushions, keyboards, and pointing devices and laptop accessories.

Since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving emergency situation, most departments will not reimburse you for this temporary telecommuting situation. Contact your department for further guidance before you purchase your own equipment.
  • Please refer to Procurement Services policy on Borrowing Univeristy-Owned Equipment for details in the process, approval and types of equipment permitted to borrow.
  • Employees who wish to purchase ergonomic furniture in their homes as reasonable accommodations should contact their supervisors or Wendy Pawling, UCI Human Resources Management Consultant,at 949-824-9756 or wpawling@uci.edu
Work with your department and follow Borrowing Univeristy-Owned Equipment policy for accessories brought home for remote work use.
No. Ergo Showroom operations are currently suspended and we cannot loan out equipment at this time.
You do not need an ergonomic evaluation to purchase equipment or accessories. Please communicate with your department supervisor to obtain guidance on how best to proceed with implementing ergonomic solutions while working remotely.

Workplace Injury/ Illness

As employees work remotely, EH&S still requires work-related injuries to be reported within 24 hours. Any injuries related to work must be reported to your supervisor and via the Online Report an Injury..  Questions on Workers’ Compensation benefits while working remotely should be directed to wcdm@uci.edu.

Questions on HR Worker’s Compensation benefits while working remotely should be directed to wcdm@uci.edu.

If you are injured or become ill as a result of your UCI employment and need medical attention, please follow these procedures:UCI Zot!Portal Workers' Compensation.

The individual or supervisor can submit an injury report.

Please contact safety@uci.edu or call 949-824-6200 for any additional questions.