COVID-19 FAQs

Updated July 15, 2022 | 9:45 a.m.

ADDITIONAL COVID-19 RESOURCES

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

Face Coverings

Face coverings are required to be worn in all in indoor settings 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. Current directives and advisories are available at UCI's Executive Directives and Policies on the Coronavirus Information Hub.

Face coverings are required to be worn in all indoor settings on UCI-controlled property, on public transit, including the Anteater Express, and in a UCI vehicle with any other individual(s) in order to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the UCI community. Current directives and advisories are available at UCI's Executive Directives and Policies on the Coronavirus Information Hub.

Yes, there are exceptions on when an individual is not required to wear a face covering:

  1. In their living unit, unless directed to do so by campus officials as part of isolation/quarantine requirements;
  2. In an enclosed private space (such as the occupant’s private office with the door closed);
  3. Showering, washing their face, or brushing their teeth in a residence hall or other UCI facility with common bathroom facilities (though the individual should maintain at least six feet of physical distance while doing so);
  4. Eating or drinking, provided individuals who are not fully vaccinated must be at least six feet apart from other individuals; or
  5. A patient within a healthcare setting, as set forth in the State Public Health Officer Guidance for the Use of Face Masks April 20, 2022, and directed by a health care provider to remove their face covering for care or treatment.

Current directives and advisories are available at UCI's Executive Directives and Policies on the Coronavirus Information Hub

The requirement for individuals to wear a face covering in this directive SHALL NOT APPLY to:

  1. Children under the age of two;
  2. Anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance;
  3. Persons with a medical or mental health condition, or developmental disability, that prevents wearing a face covering*;
  4. Anyone actively engaged in strenuous physical outdoor activity, or actively engaged in indoor approved intercollegiate athletic activities (while physically practicing or playing), where wearing the face covering could inhibit their ability to breathe, provided they observe other appropriate mitigation measures; or
  5. Anyone performing a specific task which cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering.
    This exception is limited to the time period in which such tasks are actually being performed.

Requests for reasonable COVID-19 accommodations should be directed to:

  • Disability Services Center, 949-824-7494, dsc@uci.edu (students)
  • Human Resources, Employee Experience Center (EEC), 949-824-0500, eec@uci.edu (employees)
  • ada@uci.edu (members of the public)

* UCI offices must consider requests for reasonable accommodations related to COVID-19 mitigation measures. Technical assistance may be sought from: the Disability Services Center (students) at 949-824-7494 or dsc@uci.edu; Human Resources (employees) via the Employee Experience Center (EEC) at 949-824-0500 or eec@uci.edu; or ada@uci.edu (members of the public).

Face masks, barrier face coverings, and surgical masks are designed to serve as protective barriers and may still offer some protection even if they are used beyond the manufacturer's designated shelf life or expiration date. The user should inspect all masks prior to use and, if there are concerns such as degraded materials (such as elastic) or visible tears, the product should be discarded. Contact EHS at safety@uci.edu with any questions.

Based on the information from Cal OES, the manufacturer of the N95s which UCI is distributing, and the CDC, the expiration date for BYD N95s have been extended to 5 years from the date of manufacture. For example, if the date of manufacture was 6/27/2020, the new date of expiration is now 6/26/2025. Labels stating the new expiration date have been placed on individual boxes of N95s.

A KN95 face mask is a type of disposable respirator. KN95 masks are the Chinese equivalent of an N95 respirator in the U.S. A Chinese governing body, similar to the U.S.National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) sets the standard for KN95 masks in China. Since they’re designed to meet a Chinese standard, KN95s are not regulated in the U.S. There is no KN95 on the market that's been officially graded by a U.S. agency. Therefore, NIOSH markings on KN95s is an obvious sign of a counterfeit because, as discussed, the NIOSH has not certified any KN95s.

Currently, UCI is distributing the:

  • BYD KN95 DG3101
  • Jizhen KN95 (made by Jiangxi Yifengyuan Biological Engineering Co, Ltd)
  • NEITHER of these brands claim to be NIOSH-certified

These brands/models are crosschecked against the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists of counterfeit respirators:

  • For KN95 respirators produced after July 2021, specific markings will be printed on the product and/or the packaging.
    markings on kn95 respirators
    • Marking on the product should include:
      • Name, trademark, or other means to identify the manufacturer or supplier;
      • Model or size (if applicable);
      • The number and year of publication of the Chinese respiratory protection standard combined with the filter classification, which will read as, “GB 2626-2019 KN95.” If the KN95 was produced before July 1, 2021, marking as “GB2626-2006 KN95” is acceptable.
    • Markings required on the KN95 packaging:
      • The name, trademark, or other means to identify the manufacturer or supplier;
      • Type of facepiece, model, and size (if applicable);
      • The number and year of publication of Chinese respiratory protection standard combined with the filter classification, which will read as, “GB 2626-2019 KN95.” If the KN95 was produced before July 1, 2021, marking as “GB2626-2006 KN95” is acceptable.
      • The product license number or approval information (if applicable);
      • Manufacture date (at least with year and month) or lot number, and shelf life (at least with year);
      • The sentence “see information supplied by the manufacturer”;
      • The manufacturer’s recommended conditions of storage (at least the temperature and humidity).
    • The KN95 brands distributed by UCI contain the markings identified above on the packaging or the mask itself.
  • Specific information for:
    • BYD KN95 DG3101
      • Number and year of publication of the Chinese respiratory protection standard is GB 2626-2006
      • Lot number is P200626
      • Expiration Date is 06/25/2023
    • Jizhen KN95 (made by Jiangxi Yifengyuan Biological Engineering Co, Ltd)
      • Number and year of publication of the Chinese respiratory protection standard is GB 2626-2006
      • Batch number is 20200423
      • Expiration Date is 04/22/2022

Wearing 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.

Perform hand hygiene before handling face covering, make sure it fits snugly over the nose, mouth, and chin with no large gaps on the outside of the face, secure the face covering with ties, ear loops, or tie it behind the head. Make sure hands are clean if any adjustments are needed.

Cal OSHA passed a revision to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard effective January 14, 2022, and has refined the definition of a face covering for employees to wear a higher quality face covering

Examples of such face coverings include:

  • a surgical mask,
  • a medical procedure mask,
  • a respirator worn voluntarily (also commonly known as an N95), or
  • A tightly woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers that completely covers the nose and mouth and is secured to the head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head.

Face coverings should be a snug-fitting mask. Both surgical masks and N95s are available from UCI at no cost to employees.

Approved face coverings for individuals are available at select campus locations.

For departments that would like to place bulk orders greater than 1,000, please complete the Return to Site - Supplies Needed form or email safety@uci.edu.

Surgical masks are rated by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) levels.

We recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions on usage.

This will depend on the number of people physically present in the office and their weekly usage.

Most public health professionals agree that any face covering is better than no face covering, but different face coverings come with different levels of protection. N95s, which filter airborne particles at a high rate, provide some of the highest levels of protection. KN95s and surgical masks also generally provide better levels of protection than single layer cloth masks. Whichever face covering you wear, it is important that it fits snuggly and completely covers the mouth and nose. The better quality the face covering, and the better it fits against your face, the more protection it will likely provide you.

Employees who choose to wear an N95 should pick up at select campus locations or email safety@uci.edu.; Prior to wearing an N95, employees must complete a brief training in UC Learning Center (search for “N95 Voluntary Use”).

For bulk orders greater than 20, please send an email to safety@uci.edu.

Yes, Voluntary Use Respirators (N95) and KN95s are approved for use on campus to mitigate the risks of COVID exposure. N95s respirators are considered respirators, having a very close facial fit and approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They are allowed for COVID mitigation and other approved respiratory protection program exposures. KN95s are not certified by NIOSH, but are considered acceptable as a campus-approved face covering for COVID use.

In addition, under the current Cal OSHA standards, an employee who is issued and uses N95s on a voluntary basis to mitigate COVID exposure must complete a brief training program that provides instruction on how to properly don and doff an N95, how to ensure proper fit, and how to properly care for the respirator. If employees are issued an N95 to mitigate exposures other than COVID, the full requirements of the Campus Respiratory Protection Program apply (i.e. employees must complete a medical questionnaire, be properly fit-tested, and complete mandatory respirator use training).

For additional clarification or questions regarding N95s, please contact EHS for assistance at safety@uci.edu or at 949-824-6200.

Employees choosing to wear N95s voluntarily are required to take training as part of Cal OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. Wearing an N95 for COVID-19 protection purposes for most employees (not working in a hospital setting) is considered voluntary use.

Yes. The revised Cal OSHA standard face covering definition includes face coverings or cloth face coverings with a clear plastic panel that may be used to facilitate communication with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing or others who need to see a speaker’s mouth or facial expressions to understand speech or sign language respectively.

Yes, as long as they meet the requirements as described in question #1 above.

You may wear a face shield. They are no longer required to wear a face covering. Face covering directive and advisories are available at: Executive Directives and Policies | Coronavirus Information Hub | UCI

Additional face coverings are available at select campus locations.

To remove all types of face coverings, perform hand hygiene before removing the 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. If using a cloth or non-woven face covering, place it in a clean bag or container to be stored until it can be reused or cleaned. Immediately wash hands after removing face covering.

When soiled or dirty, wash the 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 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 face covering in a clean bag or container until it can be reused. Containers used to store used or dirty face coverings should be cleaned prior to reuse.

EHS 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.

Workplace Barriers (Plexiglass)

As of May 6, 2022, partitions are no longer required. They are no longer required for exposed groups working together for an extended period but who can’t maintain distance, such as at cash registers, desks, and production line stations.

 

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.

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.

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.