Ahead of reentry, 'Germbusters' and other FM essential workers prepare campus
Liliana Gonzalez has been a very popular person on campus over the last several months. As a member of the Facilities Management "Germbusters" team, the custodian is on the front lines of the battle to clean and disinfect campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
She and the rest of the Germbusters team are the first responders when the University receives word of a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on campus. Gonzalez, who has been with the University for 13 years, says her previous work at Carondelet St. Joseph's Hospital and Kindred Healthcare led her to volunteer for the team, which was formed by Facilities Management in response to COVID-19. In those jobs, Gonzalez says, she often had to "gear up" to clean patient isolation rooms.
"I was scared, just like everybody else, but I knew I was good for the job," Gonzalez says. "If anyone could do it, it's me."
Luis Rocha, director of operations for Facilities Management, says Gonzalez has been involved in well over half of the approximately 60 calls for the nine-person Germbusters team since March 13 when campus largely shut down.
"They're pretty much on call whenever we need them," Rocha said. "We call them up, and we have somebody on site within an hour. They will go into the building and disinfect the entire affected area, including wall surfaces, desks, tables, chairs, doorknobs, door jambs – anything that's a high-touch surface."
Gonzalez acknowledges the risk, but says it's worth it in order to protect the campus and community during a public health crisis.
"What I'm doing is nothing compared to what doctors are doing," Gonzalez says. "I felt I had the experience and had to play my little part."
The nine Germbusters are among the approximately 600 Facilities Management employees who remain on campus to do the work necessary to prepare for the reentry of students, faculty and staff. Cecilia Madrid, custodial superintendent, says work to deep clean and disinfect buildings throughout campus began as soon as students transitioned to remote learning in March.
"We're trying to get everybody ready to return to campus," Madrid said. "One of the best ways for us to do it is to make sure everything looks very clean. It's going to give them that comfort level when they return to campus, that we are bringing people back to a safe environment."
Chris Kopach, assistant vice president for facilities management, says the entire FM team has gone above and beyond the call of duty to address COVID-19 concerns on top of their normal duties. He provided Lo Que Pasa with an update on what many of the FM units have been working on since March.
- Production of approximately 800 sneeze guards to provide additional distancing in offices.
- Installation of more than 1,200 brackets to hold hand sanitizers.
- Increased frequency to daily cleaning of classroom, office and administrative spaces.
- On-call disinfection upon receiving reports of positive COVID-19 tests.
- Ensuring that computer and other equipment connections are stable in facilities housing COVID-19 antibody and antigen testing.
- Installation of COVID-19 precaution signage in about 275 campus elevators.
Energy Conservation and Management
- Continuing to ensure electric and water utility infrastructure is maintained, with a specific focus on laboratories and other research facilities as activity resumes.
Facilities Management Warehouse
- Working with business partners throughout the country to procure, store and issue personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks.
- Looking at options to increase fresh air intake in University buildings in hopes of decreasing the spread of COVID-19 through droplets in the air.
- Partnering with University researchers and environmental scientists to look at airflow inside classrooms.
- Replacing filters, where possible, with those that have higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, or MERV ratings. A higher MERV rating means a filter has higher air filtration capabilities and fewer contaminants can pass through it.
Locksmith Shop and Key Desk
- Working with the Sign Shop to install informational signs about COVID-19 precautionary measures throughout campus.
Paint and Sign Shop
- Producing hundreds of signs outlining COVID-19 preventive measures.
- Working with Ian Pepper, professor of environmental science and BIO5 member, on a wastewater study at 20 locations throughout campus to pull sewer samples to be tested for COVID-19.
- Working with project managers in 12 "zones" covering all University properties to oversee requests for signage, sneeze guards, personal protective equipment, bottles of hand sanitizer and more.