The unsung heroes: Custodians fight COVID-19

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

The makeup of the campus community is varied, comprising of freshmen experiencing their first semester, top tier academic professors, students from countries around the world and more. One smaller sector of the community, the University custodians, take up the role that many take for granted, but now serve to help slow the spread of the virus that has hurt so many across the country.

These hard-working men and women make this campus a livable place. If it wasn’t crucial enough before, janitorial work is now instrumental in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Judy Huss, a building service worker with University Housing, when asked about the pandemic, said,  “​It’s made it a little harder because we do a lot more cleaning of touchpoints. We did before but now we’re much more aware of what’s going on. So we have deeper cleaning than in the past. Different kinds of chemicals that we’re using. So, more work.”

Huss, when asked if she feared for her health and safety on a daily basis, she answered with a simple ​“Yes”, highlighting the significance and necessity of her job.

Melody Decker, another custodian of University Housing, went on to describe the difficulties she is enduring given the new normal.

“​It’s put more work on us. We have to do our touch points at least four times a day, and our bathrooms twice a day to keep everything nice and sanitized.,” she said.

Decker also said that she felt worried about her safety in such an environment, elaborating that the people who have runs on Covid floors know what they’re getting into. The people who work in the residence halls don’t know who has it or has had it.

To get an understanding of the situation from the top of management, Chelsea L Hamilton, the Senior Assistant Director of Communications & Marketing at University Housing was asked how drastically the pandemic affected the daily routine of University Housing.

She said, “At the start of each flu season, the daily disinfecting routine of University Housing Building Service Workers (BSW) is modified to include additional sanitation procedures. Since last flu season, and with the introduction of COVID-19 in March, the Housing Facilities team has continued rigorous disinfecting processes to clean and sanitize public spaces and other high traffic touchpoints multiple times per day.”

Public areas are also cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant and electrostatic devices. Electrostatic devices turn disinfectant liquid into aerosols that attract to surfaces, making this a process that is more efficient and effective for BSW staff while covering more area. Moreover, to ensure safety precautions and use of sanitation supplies are correctly followed, BSW staff have undergone COVID-19 training and have been trained in the Universal Precaution cleaning approach.

This training included review of campus guidelines and requirements such as daily at-home temperature checks, weekly COVID-19 testing, use of face coverings and social distancing; proper use of face coverings, gloves, and other PPE, as well as how to put PPE on and off the correct way; and how to use disinfectants safely and effectively. The dressing and removal of PPE gear is particularly important for the BSW staff overseeing the sanitation of University.

In housing’s isolation and quarantine spaces, BSW staff are required to wear gowns for additional protection. University Housing Facilities leadership meets with other Housing unit leaders weekly to review COVID-19 updates, procedures, and guidelines and suggests solutions to address any concerns or procedure/guideline changes. Open communication and collaboration between the units have enabled University Housing to plan ahead and pivot plans as necessary.

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