COVID-19 FAQs

Updated September 2, 2021 | 3:30 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

If you are unvaccinated, you are required to wear a face covering while working indoors on UCI-controlled property in order to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the UCI community. If you are unvaccinated and outdoors, you are not required to wear a face covering, but must stay at least 6 feet apart from other individuals.  UCI’s Executive Directive on Face Coverings 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.

Face-coverings must be 2-ply and also includes voluntary use respirators, such as N95s. Upon request, UCI will provide voluntary use respirators to all employees, regardless of vaccination status.  Individuals shall 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. Face coverings combined with other preventative practices, such as frequent handwashing and physical distancing, help slow the spread of infection.

Face coverings are available for pickup at EHS, 4600 Health Sciences Road, building 41 on the campus map, Monday – Friday from 8am – 4pm.  Contact EHS by calling (949) 824-6200 or email safety@uci.edu.

Additional face coverings are available at select locations around campus:

  • 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 Dennis Aldridge
  • School of Law – contact Garth Revtyak
  • Med Sci C –stack – contact Jeff Dillon
  • McGaugh Hall loading dock room 1439F contact Robyn Stiffler
  • 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

Face coverings types are defined as surgical masks, a medical procedure mask, a voluntary use respirator, or a tightly woven fabric or non-woven materials of at least two layers.  A face covering has no visible holes or openings and must cover the nose and mouth.  A face covering does not include a scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar, gaiter, or a single layer of fabric.

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 face coverings that have been treated with a flame retardant. The flame retardant can flake off, be inhaled, and cause skin irritation. Instead, you may opt to wear face coverings made of NOMEX material. It is not a treated fabric but a fire resistant meta-aramid fiber woven into yarn and then into a fabric. NOMEX face coverings can be washed repeatedly without losing its flame-resistant properties. However, the number of repeated washing is limited and the face covering must be replaced when it begins to show signs of wear and tear.

  • 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
  • If an unvaccinated employee wears a face shield, they must also wear a face covering under the face shield while working indoors.

Workplace Barriers (Plexiglass)

No, plexiglass barriers do not replace wearing face coverings or physical distancing requirements.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Cal/OSHA and the County/State do NOT recommend barriers as a replacement for physical distancing or personal protective equipment use (face coverings/face shields). Barriers should only be used in combination with other COVID control measures, such as physical distancing, face coverings and routine disinfection of high-contact surfaces.

Barriers may add droplet protection in locations with frequent, short duration contact with personnel from outside your office or laboratory. When paired with physical distancing and proper face covering, reception areas may benefit from properly placed barriers.  They can also be a good reminder of distancing requirements.

Complete and submit the Physical Assessment Self-Evaluation Checklist with the accompanying Self-Evaluation Reference Guide.  You will also find the link to the plexi-glass form where you could provide photos and dimensions of areas where you are inquiring to place plexiglass barriers.  EHS will review the information provided to determine the appropriate next step. 

In some cases, depending on the complexity of the request, EHS staff may conduct a physical site assessment. If needed, EHS staff can provide a physical assessment of your office space and recommend plexiglass for customer-facing interactions, such as customers interacting with cashiers, or areas with customer-facing counters/windows or reception desks or areas. EHS staff will look for spaces that have a high volume of traffic and areas where staff have frequent contact with members of the public.

EHS has 2 sizes of plexiglass barriers in our inventory:

  • Small – frameless, 31.5”W x 35.5”H with bottom opening of 7.88”H x 11.81"W, base depth of 10”
  • Large – framed, 60”W x 32”H with bottom opening of 5”H x 60”W, base depth of 7”

Departments may pursue procurement of their own plexiglass barriers, if the current EHS plexiglass barriers options do not meet department needs. 

In addition to the standard size plexiglass units offered by EHS, please refer to the table below for additional barrier recommendations.

Spaces/Scenarios

Plexiglass Barrier Resource

Customer counter/ window

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/p/acrylic-personal-protection-barrier-31-1-2-in-h-x-35-1-2-in-w-p107276

Reception desk

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/p/acrylic-personal-protection-barrier-31-1-2-in-h-x-35-1-2-in-w-p107276

Conference room

4-person Table top: https://www.sitonit.net/productcatalog/sector-freestanding-mobile-screens.html; Contact Blue Space, Ken Gordon ken@bluespaceinteriors.com

Shared offices

https://www.sitonit.net/productcatalog/sector-freestanding-mobile-screens.html; Contact Blue Space, Ken Gordon ken@bluespaceinteriors.com

Clustered desks/cubicle

https://www.amazon.com/Sneeze-Guard-Plastic-Protection-Checkout/dp/B08PW4DJ5Z/ref=pd_di_sccai_24/140-2212133-1124204?pd_rd_w=bK99F&pf_rd_p=c9443270-b914-4430-a90b-72e3e7e784e0&pf_rd_r=44JTA8T2CPQY484TEW66&pd_rd_r=a421c110-4d18-4fb0-af57-0f51e874ce73&pd_rd_wg=VerUs&pd_rd_i=B08PW4DJ5Z&psc=1

Classrooms

Tri-fold Table top: https://www.sitonit.net/productcatalog/sector-tabletop-screens.html; Contact Blue Space, Ken Gordon ken@bluespaceinteriors.com

One-on-one studies

2-person Table top: https://www.sitonit.net/productcatalog/sector-freestanding-mobile-screens.html; Contact Blue Space, Ken Gordon ken@bluespaceinteriors.com

Cashier

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/p/acrylic-personal-protection-barrier-31-1-2-in-h-x-35-1-2-in-w-p107276

Yes, assembly is easy and is required for both types of plexiglass units.  The framed units require a Philips-head screwdriver to install the base while the frameless units do not require any tools for assembly.

Do not use alcohol-based cleaning solutions or glass cleaners.  To maintain the clarity of the acrylic or plexiglass, only use water and soap to clean.

  • Ensure barriers fall 18 inches below the ceiling to prevent interference with fire sprinklers spray patterns.
  • Barriers must not interfere with existing corridors, aisles or other similar open pathways intended for egress. Barriers that interfere with existing exit routes must be reviewed by EHS.
  • Examine the ventilation design with regard to the location of supply and return air registers so that the barriers do not block airflow within spaces.
  • Barriers should be adequately secured to prevent them from falling.

Barriers are one of many layers of control measures.  EHS recommends a wholistic approach to controlling COVID exposure that involves several elements, including the use of plexiglass barriers, when applicable.  The following controls are viable approaches that should be considered in your COVID mitigation approach:

  • Follow all applicable face covering policies that apply to your operation (i.e., indoor usage, etc.)
  • Wash or disinfect hands and sanitize surfaces
  • Communicate to students that they should stay home when sick
  • Follow all applicable UCI policies, please refer to the following site for current COVID requirements: https://www.ehs.uci.edu/public-health/covid-19/index.php

Current requirements mandate that all individuals are required to wear a face covering indoors or inside UCI controlled properties.  Please refer to the Executive Directive on Face Coverings for current details:   https://uci.edu/coronavirus/executive-directives/executive-directive-face-coverings.pdf

There are a few ways to ensure that the voice is less affected by wearing face coverings when speaking.  Choose face coverings with comfortable straps that will not restrict jaw and mouth movement.  Consider wearing a clear mask to show non-verbal cues and allow lip-reading.  Enunciate and speak slower for clearer sounding vowels.  Use a microphone to reduce projection that could fatigue the voice.  Use written supports such as handouts, visual aids or other instructions in class.

 

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 cases, 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, UCI uses 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. Initial understanding showed 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.

Most recent evidence suggest airborne spread is possible. The campus is taking steps to ensure ventilation systems are using the most outside air possible, running extended hours to provide a building flush, and filtration levels are upgraded to the highest level possible for the system design.

 

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.

With the elimination of physical distancing requirements, elevators will no longer have any capacity limits.  Many regulatory health agencies continue to emphasize the continuous use of face coverings for unvaccinated individuals, 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 continued to maintain water treatment through in-house staff that remain 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 continuous custodial operations, lab operations, and other water uses of the campus. In addition to these continued operations, Facilities Management trades staff regularly exercised bottle filling stations, water fountains, and sinks on campus.

 

The CDC recently updated their published guidance document that outlines steps to take before and during 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 through drinking fountains and hydration stations, water use in kitchens, and in restrooms whose fixtures are operated during custodial cleaning operations.

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

In addition, Facilities Management’s 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;
  • Identification of responsible persons for every step of the Water Management Plan; and
  • Following 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.  Facilities Management Utilities Operations also oversees water treatment for the Crawford Hall Pool.  Many of our staff members are 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

With the elimination of physical distancing requirements, elevators will no longer have any capacity limits and capacity signs will be removed.  Many regulatory health agencies continue to emphasize the continuous use of face coverings for unvaccinated individuals, good hand hygiene, and conscientious housekeeping strategies.

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 EHS.

Ergonomics For Remote or Hybrid Work Arrangements

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.

Contact your department and supervisor 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

Contact your department and supervisor for further guidance.

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 or if you have a hybrid work arrangement.

Workplace Injury/ Illness

As employees work remotely or have a hybrid work arrangement, 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.

Anyone can submit an injury report, but it is recommend that the injured employee or employee’s supervisor submits an online injury report.

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