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Wastewater testing? Electrostatic spraying? APPA Town Hall reveals how far universities will go to keep students safe from COVID-19

From wastewater testing to predict COVID-19 spikes to electrostatic spraying and ionization for cleaning, the APPA 13th Town Hall showed just how far universities will go to keep COVID-19 from spreading on campus.

APPA brought together a senior facilities officer and campus senior leader from a community college, a four-year public university and a historically black college to discuss preparations. Panelist included: 

  • Tom Hall, Johnson County Community College
  • Randy Weber, Johnson County Community College
  • Dawn Alston, Spelman College
  • Art Frazier III, Spelman College
  • Liesl Folks, University of Arizona
  • Chris Kopach, University of Arizona

Hand-dryers are out of restrooms if possible. Foot pulls for restroom doors and other high-use doors are in to reduce touching. Disinfection supply kits will be given to faculty and students, but as of now, few universities are planning to clean between classes. FMs are being seen as “ambassadors” to coordinate campus safety communication, strategies and supplies.

APPA’s Executive Vice President E. Lander Medlin shared key points from the discussion on the website. Click to see the full list, but here are some highlights:

  • “Recognizing the critical need for vast testing and tracing protocols to achieve success, the University of Arizona is “owning” the entire process (virus, antigen, and antibody testing; and rapid turnaround lab results). They have developed a fully digital platform for contact tracing. Smaller institutions without the capability and resources should focus on antigen testing and contact tracing of which the University of Arizona is willing to provide their protocol for tracing, and it is fully scalable.
  • “University of Arizona is performing vast water-based epidemiology. Researchers test the wastewater effluent coming out of the buildings and see the virus spiking in the wastewater before anybody in the building has determined symptoms for themselves. This is powerful and could be a game-changer, especially when used in residence halls for early detection of virus infection and people can be tested before they are showing symptoms. This will further assist in getting on top of clusters quickly.
  • “Faculty, students, and administrative staff are being further accommodated with “disinfection supply kits.” The decision to mandate face coverings/masks is still in limbo.
  • “Most institutions are requiring masks in public spaces and especially when 6’ social/physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • “Signage and markers on furniture and floors for 6’ social distancing queuing are a given for every building entrance, high traffic areas, and classrooms.
  • “Plexiglas shields are being widely explored for use in customer service areas, some work stations, teacher protection, etc.
  • “Very few, if any, institutions have decided to add cleaning between classes.
  • “Shutting off water fountains has not been the norm, with instructional signage and water bottle filling stations preferred.
  • “Most institutions are implementing electrostatic spraying and fogging when they can obtain and/or afford the equipment.
  • “Spelman is exploring ionization instead of UV lighting for further disinfection in air handlers.”

Click here for the recording of APPA’s Town Hall. Click here to register for future Town Halls. Click here for actual re-opening plans of universities and colleges. You can submit your school’s plan.