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COVID-19 RAQs (Recently Asked Questions)

Visit APPA’s COVID-19 Resources page, which includes links to the APPA Town Hall recording archives.

Please send your questions, comments, and emerging practices to [email protected].


Is there an additional focus on waterborne pathogen mitigation for domestic water systems that lay dormant or see minimal use?

Campuses should make sure that they flush their systems as part of their protocol for reopening. At no other time has the flushing out of systems been so critical with regard to the possibility of any type of Legionella that could be present in areas where water has been stagnant.

How long are you waiting after vacating of rooms before sending in a cleaning team?

At this time, a minimum of 24 hours is being recommended. If at all possible, several days is better (but no more than 7 days).  Aerating the area is best, along with proper cleaning procedures and proper donning and doffing of PPE. Also, be sure your contractors are following those guidelines as well.

Can you provide more information on UV-C lighting as an effective method for killing the coronavirus? At what wattage or level and for how long does the system operate?  Are there known dangers/risks to a person working around a UV fixture who may be turning the system on/off regularly? I have read multiple studies where killing CV-19 has not been confirmed.

Research on UV-C lighting for disinfecting has had good reviews and can be used during the day or overnight. The light only needs to be used for 20-30 minutes, during which time, the door to the space is closed and locked. After the disinfecting process is completed, students/teachers/staff can enter the room and the light can be moved for use elsewhere. This type of disinfecting is effective for carpets, walls, and surfaces, therefore it can save manpower as well as decrease the amount of chemicals and, therefore, their cost. Details on the actual usage and specifications should be discussed with knowledgable vendors of the product, with one such possible vendor being PURORecent research from Columbia University can be found at

How do you ensure UV light is reaching frequently touched surfaces? In other words, do you worry about the UV light being blocked by objects in front of high\-touch surfaces?

Frequently touched areas first get a light spraying of a disinfectant. Then the light is used to reach the other areas. It is thought that mounting multiple lights in permanent locations will ensure that they are consistently able to cover all areas of a given room.  It is cretically important to use this system as a supplement to a comprehensive set of disinfection protocols.

Can someone describe your process of UV cleaning of buses?

APPA has learned that UV lighting on buses is not being widely used yet on most university campuses, but definitely being explored. However, if used, once the buses have finished their routes for the day, they could possibly be sanitized overnight utilizing this method.

I’m assuming cleaning staff are NOT disinfecting classrooms between classes, but are you providing any cleaning kits for students and faculty?

While it is impossible for staff to cover every touchpoint on campus, and every classroom between classes, it is also becoming challenging to provide cleaning kits appropriate for each type of classroom as well. Instructors as well as students will need to provide some assistance with this. More hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations are being installed at entranceways and other locations in buildings.  However, most institutions have decided to provide “disinfecting supply kits” for use by teaching faculty and highly trafficked offices for in-between cleaning.  These are proving to be well-received.

Are you getting additional operational staff to deal with additional sanitizing?

At this time, considerations are still being evaluated on how to handle the additional sanitizing of individual classroom types, sanitizing between classes, sanitizing common areas, etc., and how much staff would be necessary to accomplish these tasks. However, at this time additional operational staff is not being provided.

How do campuses plan on handling food service operations this fall? 

We encourage APPA members to visit our sister association, the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) for their resources on COVID-19.  What we have also heard is many are moving to “grab & go” or “to go box” food distribution approaches and limiting seating to achieve 6’ distancing requirements. 

How will you sanitize the microfiber cloths? Does anyone have any proven research on the effectiveness of microfiber to link me to?

Please visit Prudent Reviews for information on sanitizing procedures.

How are colleagues determining frequency increases of cleaning in high-touch areas?  How are they determining cleaning 2x, 3x, 4x frequency increases?  What are the determining factors being used?

At this time, we see adding staff to overlap and extend into the day for additional rounds of standard surface disinfection for high-touch areas, as well as at least two additional restroom cleanings in each building, and three rounds of high-tech surface disinfection in the common area spaces.  Some larger institutions (e.g., Penn State) are approaching with full cleaning and disinfecting in the early morning hours and making hand wipes and sanitizers widely available.  Williams College is providing “exchange caddies” (little kits with weekly quantities of cleaning and disinfecting supplies for their classrooms/teaching faculty.  

Is anyone looking into Far-UVC lighting as a tool to use as a disinfecting tool?

APPA recommends ensuring that you are following CDC Guidelines and OSHA regulations when using these types of disinfectants.  An example by  Columbia University, APPA Member can be found here. 

What is the aerosol disinfectant’s name that will spray classrooms automatically on a timer?

The fogger referenced is from a company called Victory Spray,

When using an electrostatic fogger, does it make sense to treat those areas known to have been affected, or in every space on campus? What product is used with the fogger?

Although electrostatic foggers are reportedly being use, APPA has gleaned more definitive information from ACHA’s COVID-19 Task Force. “Foggers became very popular and were used during norovirus outbreaks, because norovirus was far more difficult to disinfect and had primarily fecal/oral transmission, so bathroom surfaces were a major source of infection.  However, as discussed during the second APPA Town Hall session (focused on the virology of COVID-19), COVID-19 has a lipid envelope, which makes it highly susceptible to simple soap and water and 60% alcohol-based gels and cleaners.  So the CDC recommended cleaning processes are far less cumbersome.  So while there may be (they do not know for sure) data that shows that the foggers work against COVID-19, the important message at this writing is that they are not necessary in order to clean common areas and rooms.  Far less expensive approaches are effective.  

Therefore, to keep budgetary impacts to a minimum, only order the supplies that are necessary to get the job done.

How do you disinfect keyboards in computer labs? How are you cleaning hand tools if they are used by multiple people?

According to a recent study published (March 20, 2020) in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days. Therefore, it is recommended that the CDC Rules for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces be followed. The study found that the virus is viable for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper. It is also detectable in the air for three hours.

How long before unoccupied spaces can be considered safe for custodial personnel to clean them?  If a space is unoccupied for a month, can it safely be assumed that it will be free of the live virus?

There are several factors to be considered to determine if a space can be assumed to be safe for reentry (for example the types of surfaces in the space, or whether the space was previously unoccupied and sanitized). However, if the space was occupied, it should have open air flow for at least 24 hours before sanitizing, and entry made with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) if at all possible (i.e., gloves, gown, and possibly masks.) Whenever in doubt, it is best to reclean the space, and always check CDC guidelines and local health departments to determine the latest information availble, as these are still emerging practices.

What is being done with regard to disinfecting senior administrative spaces? Railings, doorknobs, etc.?

APPA recommends following standard incident operating procedures.

What are your cleaning protocols at this time? Are you using Electrostatic disinfection?  Carpet cleaning?

APPA recommends ensuring that you are in compliance with CDC Guidelines and OSHA regulations as well as visiting APPA’s COVID-19 Resource page.

Are there any specific cleaning or sanitizing procedures that can be shared?

Yes, APPA is publishing a series of shared resources on our APPA’s COVID-19 Resource page. We also urge you to share your procedures with APPA for possible posting at [email protected].

What is the risk of COVID-19 making its way to air filters in normal central HVAC systems such as office or classroom buildings? What is the role HVAC units and systems play in the transmission of the coronavirus? 

From Gary Reynolds, Past APPA President: If a system can operate on 100% outside air without overtaxing the heating or cooling system, then that should be done.  That probably means that the building’s controls may have to be overridden to force it to 100% outside air. If the fan system can handle the increased pressure requirements, then increasing the filter media to MERV-13 (or higher) would be appropriate.  Of course, all the filters, when being changed out, should be treated like hazardous waste.

The HVAC systems in most non-medical buildings play only a small role in infectious disease transmission, including COVID-19. Knowledge is emerging about COVID-19, the virus that causes it (SARS-CoV-2), and how the disease spreads. Reasonable, but not certain, inferences about spread can be drawn from the SARS outbreak in 2003 (a virus genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2) and, to a lesser extent, from transmission of other viruses. Preliminary research has been recently released, due to the urgent need for information, but it is likely to take years to reach scientific consensus.(adapted from ASHRAE)

Are you basing your cleaning strategies on the droplet transmission or airborne transmission theory of virus dispersion?

From Don Guckert, University of Iowa: “Our public health experts advise us to think in terms of ‘snot’ and ‘boogers.’  This virus is transmitted through moisture particles.  It is not an airborne disease in the sense that dry particles are breathed in.  The latest is that the ‘snot’ dries up in a matter of hours to three days.  Then it is a booger and no longer infectious.  Further, the drying happens faster on cloth and fiber surfaces than on hard surfaces.

“If a custodian is vacuuming a carpet that has a fresh sneeze on it, in our thinking, chances are that the action of the vacuum would mix the ‘snot’ particles with dust particles and dampen any airborne moisture particles.  Even if a particle were to become airborne, it is hard to imagine it traveling far and directly enough to the custodian’s airways.

“My advice is to have the custodian wear a face mask (N95) when vacuuming.  Better yet, if the buildings are primarily empty, cut back on the vacuuming frequency and/or allow a day or two after its been used before vacuuming.  But the bottom line in our thinking is that this is a low risk.”

What is that “critical time period” for how long spaces need to be vacated before they can be considered safe without cleaning?

APPA recommends ensuring that you are in compliance with CDC Guidelines and OSHA regulations.

How do you disinfect keyboards in computer labs? How are you cleaning the hand tools if they are used by multiple people?

APPA recommends following CDC Guidelines for the cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of surfaces and objects that are touched often.

For those areas that are closed to the public, are there additional measures being taken in terms of containment to maintain cleanliness?

APPA recommends that only trained, specified staff with proper entry credentials may gain access to restricted areas.

When students move out of residence halls, how are you dealing with room maintenance and cleaning, and extra materials/items left behind?

APPA recommends a full cleaning, closing down the building, and vacating.

Are your environmental and maintenance staff being screened before entering the building?  Is anyone taking temperatures?  When would you consider starting these procedures?

While it is an emerging practice, APPA recommends the practice be put into place.  We would immediately suggest this practice for public spaces and hospitals, clinics, etc.

How are universities responding to the need for custodial staff members periodically cleaning and sanitizing facilities to keep campuses safe for remaining staff  (University police, IT, finance, etc.) during the lock-down?

APPA recommends full cleaning, closing down the building, and vacating. We further suggest implementing “Contact Tracing” as well as the REDUCE USE concept with a designated entrance for both entrance and exit purposes.

Medical and Mental Health

We have been unable to buy the test kits viral or antigen. Any recommendations.

Department of health officials from each state can provide a listing of commercial laboratories or companies producing testing kits. Here is a sample from the state of Virginia.

What are your thoughts on pool testing? Also, you mentioned wastewater testing—would you recommend it for dorm buildings?

The FDA has approved a couple of pool tests for locations where there aren’t widespread testing capabilities. This allows for testing of large groups of people (for example athletes, or if there’s a need to test all the people that live in one particular residence hall). With this method several people are tested at one time, and if the test is negative, they are all considered having negative results. If it shows positive, then all the people in that testing pool have to be tested individually.

Waste water effluent testing is available and best utilized in a student dormitory building setting.  A contractor can provide these services, but it is not inexpensive.  You’ll have to weigh the cost/beneifits of engaging this approach.  The University of Arizona has successfully implemented this new technology.

What is the temperature range needed for the virus to survive?

From the information gathered so far, the virus can live in cold as well as hot and humid weather, but exact temperatures are not fully known at this time.

When is it best to use antigen test? 

Antibodies most commonly become detectable 1-3 weeks after symptom onset, at which time evidence suggests that infectiousness likely is greatly decreased and that some degree of immunity from future infection has developed. 

Can you contract COVID-19 after you have had it and recovered?

Yes, you can contract COVID-19 after you’ve had it and recovered.  You do not become immune after contracting COVID.

How accurate are the tests for COVID-19?

Diagnostic lab tests (ideally taking 24-48 hours turnaround) are close to 100% accurate. However, some of the rapid tests (taking 20-30 minutes for results) are only about 80% accurate (this means one in five people will test incorrectly.)
Immunity testing
tells whether you are immune.  Not enough is known about immunity at this time to make critical decisions for grouping students, returning employees to the workplace, or screening. 

How do you suggest smaller institutions address testing and contact tracing? I am thinking of community colleges: no dorms, no research, and no clinic or medical staff on campus.  Are there other options to proactively test, other than using the county health department resources?

Currently, the only solution is for smaller institutions to be in close contact with their local, state, tribal, or territorial health department. They will be the ones responsible for contact tracing if you don’t have the resources.  A new rapid test (with a 10-15 minute response time) may become available this fall from Abbott Laboratories through the Federal Government.  Its efficacy has not been outlined nor have more details been provided as of yet. 

What can be done about the mental health of our facilities staff who have been working the entire time and now suffer from COVID Fatigue? 

The new term “COVID Fatigue” is real and is having an impact on facilities professionals. They face possible layoffs, staggered shifts, repetitive tasks, added responsibilities and longer hours for the well-being and safety of others, let alone the unknowns and uncertainty of what the future may hold. Given the amount of this stress, make sure you and your staff take time off, celebrate your wins, and enjoy your successes. 

Are the mental health ramifications of social distancing and other limitations being addressed?  This may be just as detrimental as COVID-19 itself.

There is a definite need when it comes to supporting students, staff, faculty, and their families with respect to the growing mental health concerns.  An example shared by The University of Iowa is that they have  taken an aggressive approach to this, with a lot of specific resources and frank talk about how this can impact their community. We don’t know what we don’t know, and that uncertainty is difficult for people to manage. There was a reference to PTSD given the fears and unknowns both at work and at home.  It’s occurring within our families, our community—the entire world. The thought is that  we will see resources blossom, because this can take a toll on all of us. We’ll need to tap into our HR departments, as well as telehealth for mental health assistance and support.

Are there any concerns for students with physical disabilities returning to campus under social distancing that we should consider?

Please refer to the American with Disabilities Act website for students with physical disabilities returning to campus under social distancing requirements.

What are some tips and tricks for checking on mental well-being?

Communicating with staff one-on-one to understand personal issues, fears, and concerns. Being transparent about events at your institution, and what steps are being taken to address changes and concerns. If staff works remotely, being in touch with them on a regular basis to make sure they understand what is expected of them and keeping them apprised of what is happening on campus.

What are some techniques for getting people to discuss their feelings around working remotely, safety concerns, staffing issues, and other COVID-19 issues relating to their jobs?

APPA recommends communicating with all staff regularly with compassion, openness, and transparency , especially during these times of heightened uncertainty and fear of the unknown. In addition, some APPA members have shared that the following practices worked well for them:

• Making sure staff understands that they are important and essential, especially in a time of crisis.

• Communicating in person instead of via email when facilities personnel are considered essential staff and expected to stay at work, while non-essential staff can leave the campus.

• Communicating information often, and not withholding any new information or communications from them.

• Flexibility with staff who have children in school and making it abundantly clear that they would not lose their job if they needed to take time to find safe childcare when schools were closing.

• Meeting with staff in advance to explain the notices and messages that HR would be issuing.

• Focusing on putting into place administrative communications and controls stressing social/physical distancing and the importance of proper hand washing protocols. Placing flyers in break rooms, storage areas, and bathrooms to reinforce this.

• Dispelling rumors about essential staff being fired for taking time off and stressing that taking leave would be approved.

• Being aware of all team members that are older adults or people of any age with serious underlying conditions, which the CDC considers at greater risk of contracting the virus. This allowed for reassignments to be readily available for those team members.

Is it possible to determine, after an asymptomatic person self-isolates and considers themselves “recovered,” if they actually had the virus?

Possibly “yes” now, and almost certainly “yes” down the line, as technology advances. At present, a person who has symptomatically recovered from COVID-19 may still have enough viral RNA in their nasopharyngeal secretions to cause a positive (antigen) test.  But the best test for this situation will be an antibody test, which will test for antibodies against the virus, thus confirming recent or past infection (depending upon the presence of short-term or long-term antibodies or both).  The hope is that antibody (blood) tests will be available soon. 

Is it anticipated that COVID-19 will evolve into a non-novel virus within a relatively short period of time?

Eventually, COVID-19 will have infected (symptomatically or asymptomatically) enough individuals—or a combination of infection and vaccination will create a cadre of enough immune individuals—that the pervasive person-to-person spread (lateral transmission) of the virus will stop.  At that point, COVID-19 will no longer be “novel,” as was ultimately the case with H1N1.  But unfortunately, that will not be “in a relatively short period of time.” This is why it is important to continue to follow the expert recommendations regarding prevention from the CDC, our local, tribal, state, and territorial health departments, and infectious disease experts.  We cannot stop these important preventive steps yet, or any time soon.

Since the analytical testing method only determines the presence of the RNA, not virulence, is it possible a person could be negative one time, and positive at a later time?

Yes, there will be individuals that test negative on the current antigen (RNA) test and later will have enough of the viral RNA on board to test positive (whether the virus itself is alive or dead).  However, when the new antibody tests complete development and are available (this process is underway), we will also be able to determine who has had a past infection, and even determine who may now be immune (e.g., if they have a high enough antibody “titer”).   This will be a very important advance, helping us to determine the number of symptomatic v. asymptomatic infections in a community or country.  

What metric will indicate flattening of the curve?  Over what period of time?

“Flattening of the curve” is a general, visual “rounding off,” and then plateauing in the slope of the infection curve (based on the total number of infections in a community or country.)  There really isn’t a specific metric for this. If you look at the cumulative curve for China on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 site, and then look at the U.S. curve, you will see our “flattening” goal.  You can also see graphs for both cumulative and new cases on the site. 

How does COVID-19 cause death?

It is a respiratory illness, and why there is such a need for respirators. Respirators keep people breathing when the lungs are attacked, and a person can’t breathe on their own. Therefore, respiratory failure occurs, and then shock, and multi-organ failure most often occur.

I just heard today that “red eyes” or conjunctivitis could also be a symptom.  True or False?
This is false.

Is body mass greater than 40 a new risk factor?

Although it was not on the original CDC list, it has now been added.  It is not hard to see why a BMI over 40 would put an individual at greater risk.  Morbidly obese individuals have a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, which are all independent risk factors for COVID-19.  It is also more difficult to ventilate such an individual, which is key to the survival of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Regarding the lung infection, is there benefit to having individuals vaccinated for pneumonia such as Prevnar?

Yes, vaccinations versus bacterial pneumonia would certainly be beneficial, as would vaccination against influenza (in the case of influenza, to reduce diagnostic dilemma, if nothing else).  However, the pulmonary complications in the most critically ill COVID-19 patients are not always pneumonia in the classic infectious diseases sense, but instead respiratory failure, shock, and multi-organ failure.

Given the unsubstantiated information circulating on social media, is taking NSAIDS (e.g., Ibuprofen and Advil, etc.) causing complications with respect to COVID-19? 

The information circulating about COVID-19 complications and NSAIDs (Ibuprofen and others) is currently speculative and theoretical.  Certainly, such a link could possibly be substantiated down the line, but the jury is still out, and the FDA and CDC are not willing to state that a causal link exists.  As with everything else about COVID-19, our understanding continues to evolve, sometimes rapidly.  Therefore, if an individual patient has alternative choices for fever-reduction (e.g., acetaminophen in a patient without allergy or liver disease), many experts are suggesting taking a non-NSAID approach while the research continues.

Gowns are not readily available in the supply chain for non-healthcare facilities.  Can one safely clean areas with proper hand hygiene and gloving, but without gowns?

When dealing with a space where a person tested positive for COVID-19, it is best to air out that space for 24 hours before entry, and enter thereafter with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) if at all possible (i.e., gloves, gown, and possibly masks.) It is critical to follow the CDC guidelines (along with your specific State/Local Health Department instructions) in these cases, and use the most up-to-date information on these special cleaning requirements. The focus for use of PPEs should be situation-specific, so that shortages are avoided due to everyone feeling the need to use them. In cases where these supplies are not available, it has been recommended that a reusable/washable cloth gown be utilized as long as one “dons”, “doffs”, and washes it properly and expeditiously. Videos are available from the Emory and CDC websites for this process; note that they were produced during the Ebola crisis but are relevant to the current pandemic.

Opening/General Safety

How are organizations using students to enhance or support communication/messaging?

  • Students themselves have become the compliance monitors looking to each other for encouraging adherence to the campus policy’s rules and regulations to ensure increased compliance.
  • Development of community contracts/pledges, which are a behavioral attestation that outline not only the expectations, but the possible consequences for failure to comply, and can lead to the student code of conduct being addressed, and even expulsion are in use. These pledges also further reinforce all student’s role as a representative of their college/university no matter where they are.
  • Peer ambassador programs have emerged designed to provide education of students in non-compliance. The ambassadors can also provide masks and other resources to assist in compliance, thereby promoting education and monitoring of one another.
  • The university mascot is being included for backup, with students using their slogans and mottos. 

It was mentioned earlier that campuses are reserving an average of 10% of their beds for quarantine/isolation.  Are any campuses finding they are filling 10% of their beds?  What are we learning is the actual % of capacity needed?

APPA has found that the percentage of beds needed for quarantine/isolation fluctuates on the size of the campus and the rate of COVID on each campus. On average, however, the number seems to be in the upper teens at around 15%.

Some of our campuses are a significant contributor to the county population.  Are campuses required to report positive cases to the county, and does the county include campus results or keep them separate?

APPA has learned that universities are required to report to the county officials, who then compile a full tally to report of cases within a given county.  HIPPA regulations weigh heavy in this reporting so please take great care to abide by them.

Could you explain the external partnership in more detail?

Many colleges are integral to the community, so it is important to manage the perception, especially with student activities outside of the college itself, and to step up and truly be a part of the community. Managing COVID has to be a collaborative effort between not only the university and the facilities management departments, but also with outreach from the faculty and staff to the surrounding communities ensuring everyone is working together and communicating. Sharing testing results (for example, wastewater testing) and steps taken from those results (such as quarantines and isolation) should be shared with the community.  Some other important partnerships are with the state and local Health Departments, Law Enforcement, City/Town Councils, etc.  These are critical entities for us to build strong partnerships and working relationships, especially during this pandemic.  

All schools are following the CDC guidelines. However, digital contact tracing or UV lighting could be more effective and help slow the virus. Public education is constantly saying there is no budget for this. What do you suggest is the best path? Who would be the best person to share this with at a college/university? 

Digital contact tracing can be secured via a free app “COVIDWISE”.  However, the trick is getting faculty, staff, and students to opt-in.  There are others available through MIT, Johns Hopkins, and most recently the University of Arizona, and many more are available from your State or Local Health Department.

How do you handle a situation where a student or staff person cannot wear a mask?

Students are urged to use student support services at their campus to be evaluated and given approval not to wear a mask. Faculty and staff must coordinate with the facilities department or the human resources department to be evaluated and could also be provided with alternate types of masks or face shields that they can use in lieu of a standard mask.  Special quarantine or space-use considerations may also be put into place in those circumstances.

Are you planning to use outdoor spaces for learning?

Most classes will be online or we will have smaller group meetings in classrooms. However, we have found that some tents will be used for outdoor activities and by choir/chamber music groups.

Are there any concerns about going completely cashless, and what options do people have if all they have is cash? 

Institutions are strongly encouraging students, faculty, and staff to add money to their dining plan or other approved prepaid cards for their institutions. Most are stating as part of their rules and regulations, that cash will not be accepted on campus. 

What factors went into deciding to use signage versus removing items and furniture? Any concern for students simply ignoring those signs? 

Many institutions simply have nowhere to store the unused furniture. Storing off campus is often cost prohibitive, particularly when there is no definitive timetable for how long the need for distancing will last. However, some campuses may have areas that cannot be open during the pandemic, and those institutions are using these spaces as furniture storage.   

For those looking to “exclude the public” from buildings, how is this being enforced, especially in urban environments? 

Most institutions will be excluding the public from their campuses as they open this fall because there is no way to guarantee that the public will be taking the same precautions that are being demanded and expected of students. Institutions will also be increasing the usage of signage in common areas as well as entry points to buildings.  

Are students allowed to have friends and family accompany them during move-in? And if so, how many family/friends can they bring with them to enter the housing buildings? 

Although this will need to be addressed by each institution, most campuses are allowing friends and family to assist with moving in but limiting the number of people for example to two, and reinforcing the mask and distancing rules when outside of residential housing on campus.  

How are schools handling the responsibility of students to report to campus if they have been informed by an off-campus agency (i.e. Health Department or contract tracer) that they have had a potential exposure? 

This issue involves privacy regulations with HIPPA guidelines, as well state and local health department regulations and the CDC, so the responsibility will fall on the students themselves to manage this. 

How are you handling student organization office spaces? 

Because student unions are the heart of the campus, especially with respect to student gathering spaces, a 50% reduction in density and corresponding capacity are necessary for hard and soft spaces/furniture (e.g., lounges and carrels, meeting and conference rooms, and other organization spaces). Hand sanitizing dispensers should be distributed throughout the building along with appropriate use of Plexiglas guards for information centers.  Signage displayed digitally and in print formats is also being used and encouraged.

How can the mask policy with students be enforced? What consequences/sanctions are in place for those who do not comply with the face mask requirements or social distancing orders? 

Some institutions are using a combination of warnings, followed by referrals to the Dean of Student Affairs if the rules for wearing masks and social distancing are not followed. However, campuses are counting more on peer pressure, student leaders, RAs, staff, and cameras to monitor the social distancing requirements.

How is sanitizing the food delivery bots being handled? How easy/difficult is the system to set up and use? 

Delivery bots are autonomous ground robots on wheels that deliver meals to students. The students can order and pay in advance, and the robots deliver the meals to their location. The company that supplies the robots goes to the campus and maps out the courses across a given campus, which takes about two months (depending on the size of the campus.) So far, this appears to have increased food sales across campuses.  One company that supplies these bots is Chartwells Higher Education and Starship Technologies. The best practices on the sanitation and cleaning of these devices still needs to be studied.

How will community bathrooms in residence halls be modified to receive students? How will housekeeping be performed (M-F) or will weekends be included? 

Most campuses are making the critical decision to go to single room occupancy, keeping community bathrooms to a minimum. In cases where community bathrooms are necessary, bathrooms are cleaned once or twice a shift, with a chart clearly visible to the public showing when the cleaning was last performed. The use of UV markers several times a week is really helpful to make sure bathrooms are being thoroughly sanitized. Some institutions are assigning specific students to specific bathrooms to minimize overcrowding. Make sure you adhere to local codes for the number of fixtures related to occupancy.

How will you handle students who contract the virus? If the student is from out of state, how will they go home to isolate? 

Although each campus will probably have their own protocol for identifying students who may be sick, the process may look something like this: 

  • Generally, the process starts with a POI (person of interest) who may be exhibiting symptoms. 
  • They go to the student health center, take an evaluation, and a determination is then made as to whether the student needs to be tested. 
  • Once the student is tested, he/she goes back to their room for isolation until the test results come back. 
  • If a positive test comes back, the intention is to request that the student leave the campus as soon as possible to quarantine at home. 
  • Many campuses have enlisted students, but others are utilizing staff or have outsourced the function, to handle contact tracing, and at this point, they are deployed to make sure that anyone the student has come into contact with is also tested. 
  • An impact team is sent to scrub down that student’s room from top to bottom. 
  • The room is cleaned again upon their return (as returns are anticipate

In cases where the students cannot go home (e.g. students from abroad) some residences have been segregated for isolation, provided the student doesn’t need medical care. If they do, they will be required to go to the local hospital for treatment. 

In the quarantined area, who will do the cleaning/disinfecting?

Our findings indicate that in most cases, the custodial staff will be responsible for the cleaning of quarantined areas, donning full PPE and implementing special training protocols. If the case is found to need special handling, a contracted vendor is called in. 

Is there any system for contact tracing planned? 

Most campuses have hired outside help or enlisted and are training students and/or staff to become contact tracers at their institutions. This will be challenging regardless, since work will begin with roommates, and tracing back to any and all others this person of interest has had contact with. 

Are students who will be staying in doubles required to sign a waiver stating they understand and accept the risk of living with someone else? 

APPA has learned that at this point, not all institutions have special agreements for students rooming in doubles, but that may change from location to location, given the level of virus spread and testing results/spikes in a given state or particular campus.  

Question for panel: Are masks required? And if so, are they required in common areas? Any exception to that? Would you allow single students/staff to not wear masks in lounges, hallways, etc.? 

Unless an individual is in their own room, or outside doing some kind of physical activity and socially distancing, everyone on campus is expected to wear masks.  

There was some mention that airborne particles are not the primary concern, but how much risk do you believe aerosolization and respiratory droplets will be for your campus community? Is this part of the stringent mask policies? To what extent are panelists planning for and concerned about airborne spread, or making changes to HVAC systems? 

Aerosolized respiratory particles (proteins) are considered to be a spreader of the virus, and the best way to control that is to wear masks in indoor spaces where there is less than desirable outside air exchange.  Campuses with hospital components are running a number of rooms under negative pressure and have some type of barrier. Other institutions have looked into using UV in their air handling systems, but that seems to work marginally at best, and others are also using side stream scrubbers in high impact areas that may be of concern. However, ASHRAE recommends installing MERV 13 and 14 filters (or better) in HVAC systems that are compatible with such upgrades. Also, one fallback position is to use antimicrobial filters for anything lower than MERV 13 or 14 which are available for PTAC units. 

We have been contacted by a number of vendors who provide “certification” indicating that the facilities were deep cleaned.  This certification is coming from cleaning professionals as well as pest control specialists (who are now considered cleaning specialists) and others. Are you getting pressure from your administration or faculty to provide certification for clean facilities? 

While third party certification is available, some campuses are finding good results using UV markers to monitor their own cleaning practices. By using an electronic audit that records, downloads and produces a KPI analysis, one can monitor the effectiveness of the cleaning done by staff. 

What percentage of beds were set aside for quarantine and how did you determine that number? While no exact numbers have been established for this need, APPA has learned that in most cases, 5-10% of rooms are being set aside for campuses with single room occupancies for this purpose. 

Are there special plans to address the possibility of protesters on campus, while keeping the campus population healthy and safe from COVID-19? 

Campuses are urged to keep social gatherings to small groups of 10 or less (or whatever your state or county mandates). Some demonstrations are bound to take place, but if students are adhering to social distancing, wearing masks and other health and safety standards, it’s possible to be flexible in these situations. Also, you can employ the use of text alert systems that encourage students to stay indoors and alert them to any concerns, especially if student protests become intermingled with the public or outside groups that are more aggressive. Working with your city government and keeping local law enforcement apprised of any demonstrations, in case things go wrong, is also strongly advised. 

How could orientations for new students work to enforce social distancing guidelines?

Orientations could be used with new students to instill a culture of mutual respect, and expectation that the entire community work together to keep the campus safe, healthy—and ultimately—open.

What separation measures are being implemented on the buses to physically allow for social distancing, and what distance thresholds are you implementing for spacing?

Targeted strategies for bus protocols include:  requiring masks; 6’ physical distancing for seating; no standing room only in aisles; reduced capacities at 50% or less will require an increase in buses; possibly limit routes to 15-minute cicles to reduce contact duration time; looking at route density with drive callbacks to increase the number of routes; and Plexiglas shields between the driver and passengers.

More solutions for this issue are still evolving, especially since some institutions rely on more than one transportation provider, and each has their own sets of guidelines, rules, and regulations in place.  This will require increased collaboration and coordination with these providers to ensure a consistent experience for all constituency groups.

Overall, the ideas have been to increase signage at bus stops for proper distancing, cut ridership for proper distancing, consider  adjusting bus routes, install plexiglass partitions, and remain as flexible as possible when ridership starts, so that these and other processes can be evaluated and adjusted if needed.

With COVID and new ways of learning online, has there been a strategic approach with academic scheduling to intentionally manage the demand of transpostation on campus? Driving between classes is a big problem—even with creative ways to promote and enhance bicylcle infrastructure and shuttle routes. It seems that this is an issue that includes both design and scheduling.

This is an excellent question which would require a multitude of possible solutions.  However, any and all responses should be considered in light of one’s unique institution, its cultural and operational requirements.  That said, most institutions are coming to grips with their course/class schedules and the need to stagger face-to-face deliveries add both asynchronous and synchronous on-line delivery of large lecture classes.  This will have an obvious ripple effect from the “controlled” classroom environment to students’ movement everywhere and anywhere and the chaos that portends.  This is actually the biggest battle we face.

Furthermore, transportation on campus is still in flux. However, basic bus protocol is the best approach to addressing transportation by buses (evaluating and reworking bus routes, establish bus entry and exit protocols, increasing daily bus hours, move to a six-day a week operation; add mopeds and scooters to the fleet. The idea of adding buses to the schedules to allow for reduced bus capacities, social distancing, and extra time needed between classes has also been considered.

Another factor that will play into transportation needs will be class scheduling and how classes are loaded, possibly allowing for programs to create neighborhoods of students, so that they’re together more and traversing the institution can be decreased, and more easily controlled. 

How are campuses who have their own rental fleets managing the use and cleaning of these vehicles?

Some institutions are considering decentralizing their fleet to make them more accessible throughout campus and they are also considering using mobile devices for renters to check out vehicles on their own.

They are also expecting each individual who rents or uses vehicles, to be as diligent as they can be about frequently wiping down touch points, especially before they return the vehicle. To this end, additional signage, educational pamphlets, and instructional sheets, as well as wipes, are being provided.

How are you controlling the pedestrian flow for doors you do not want to be used?

Basic pedestrian circulation signage for each building is seen as the best way to handle flow and use of doors. It has been recommended to develop an internal pedestrian circulation plan for every building.  Most institutions are “informing not enforcing” these policies and relying on self-policing and pee pressure.

Is there social distancing applied in parking lots for vehicles to park in every other space (as opposed to parking in each spot?)

At this time, no special efforts are known for distancing between vehicles in parking lots, as the sheer size of parking spaces will allow for social distancing.  

What COVID considerations are being made for Uber or Lyft coming to campus? If anything?

Both Uber and Lyft have posted their own COVID-19 Safety Precaution Guidelines which must be adhered to in order to use the service. 

Note: Some institutions are developing their own internal on-demand service for faculty and staff. This is being done to reduce the amount of times they have to use their personal vehicles, or drive/walk across campus to get to a meeting. This will allow them to basically have door-to-door service, thus improving or reducing the waste and effort that occurs from travel time on campus.

How is the possible refusal by students/staff of complying with state-wide mandatory laws requiring the use of  masks in public being handled in educational institutions?  

It is important for institutional leaders, faculty, and staff of an institution to set the example for students to follow the rules of social distancing and wear masks. In fact, staff and faculty have already been keeping themselves in check, and the hope is that the majority of students will choose to also do the right thing, and that peer pressure will ultimately allow or enable  individuals to adhere to the rules of wearing masks and social distancing. This is an issue of mutual respect, with potentially dire consequences for others if the rules are not followed. The hope is that the community as a whole can work together if they want the institution to stay safe, healthy, and open.

It is also imperative for students, and staff, to understand that the older population at their institution must be protected because they are at higher risk for infection, especially when interacting with them. This point alone makes students who disregard proper procedures impose huge consequences on others, who are there to teach and assist them.

As for enforcement, other than reminders, supplying masks, and being diligent about testing and contact tracing, at this time, APPA has not heard of any specific enforcement procedures. 

NOTE: Interaction between students and faculty has prompted some institutions to create plexiglass protected areas for students to confer with faculty before and/or after class, to lower the chance for transmission.

I’m assuming cleaning staff are NOT disinfecting classrooms between classes, but are you providing any cleaning kits for students and faculty?

While it is impossible for staff to cover every touchpoint on campus, and every classroom between classes, it is also becoming challenging to provide cleaning kits appropriate for each type of classroom as well. Instructors as well as students will need to provide some assistance with this. More hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations are being installed at entranceways and other locations in buildings.  However, most institutions have decided to provide “disinfecting supply kits” for use by teaching faculty and highly trafficked offices for in-between cleaning.  These are proving to be well-received.

For instructional labs, has anyone considered allowing for closer social distancing than six feet, since the air change per hour is so much higher in a lab than in a typical classroom?

We have not seen this happen. In fact, in some cases, it was determined that there should only be one student per hood in the chemistry class labs, whereas before there would have been two students. This already cuts the class by half.

Are campuses moving toward all single-occupancy style dorm rooms? Would this be a permanent change, or will there be a return to density (i.e., roommates) in the future?

APPA is hearing that double rooms that are small will be converted to singles, which will affect both student life and campus capacity. Flexibility and creativity will be important, whether it’s to partner with neighboring apartment complexes, local hotels, or setting aside blocks of rooms in the university hotel.

How do we handle hallway circulation spaces when 6-foot distancing is difficult to maintain?

This will be a matter of educating students, faculty, and staff—as well as providing reminders by way of signage. Staggered start and stop times may be implemented as well.  Above all, it will be important to get everyone to adhere to standards and take responsibility and be accountable for their own health and well-being, as well as accepting that their actions can affect others. In addition, many institutions believe that the contact duration time is minimal and will ask anyone walking in interior spaces to wear a face mask to provide that extra protection for all concerned.

Are you getting additional operational staff to deal with additional sanitizing?

At this time, considerations are still being evaluated on how to handle the additional sanitizing of individual classroom types, sanitizing between classes, sanitizing common areas, etc., and how much staff would be necessary to accomplish these tasks. However, at this time additional operational staff is not being provided.

How are you handling the reconfiguration of bus stop pavilions, etc.?

Where transportation structures are outdoors, it will be the responsibility of the riders to socially distance while waiting for the bus. Additional signage will be added to the current structures as reminders of these practices.

Are alternative spaces being considered for instruction (e.g., converting a gym to function as an instructional space in order to accommodate a larger class size)?

All possibilities are still being considered at this time. This includes using tents, gyms, and stadiums, even parking garages to allow for larger class sizes due to social distancing requirements. However, weather could be a limiting factor, and so far, no final decisions have been made.

What about bus capacity and feasibility of operation? Using social distancing guidelines, a 44-seat bus can accommodate about 7 people.

This is still very fluid, but the idea of adding buses, increasing how many runs they perform each day , and the extending the length of operation time are all possibilities, as we work to discover how comfortable students, faculty, and staff feel about using public transportation overall. Click here for additional resource from APPA Town Hall on dedensification.

How are universities addressing instructional spaces for the arts (music/dance/etc.)? Is there guidance on what is appropriate social distancing for these activities and how that may need to be adjusted operationally vs. physically?

APPA learned from the folks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that they have applied a 12’ requirement for social distancing is suggested for dancers in performance spaces and they have also reduced the class time to aid in reducing contact duration which is also helpful in these situations.

How do we account for instructor use and movement around lecterns and whiteboards?

This issue will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration not only the students, but the comfort level of faculty (given the risk factors they will need to consider) and the configuration of the room.  In the classroom itself, many changes are being considered, such as classes being taught via multimedia video, and enhanced technology that we don’t even know about yet. Whiteboards and chalkboards may become obsolete as the teaching environment becomes less mobile, and we add plexiglass dividers or lapel microphones as possible teaching aids.

In spaces with fixed seating, as well as those where you are unable to move or store furniture, how will you indicate which seats are to be used?

While the best-case scenario is for extra furniture to be removed and stored, there will be instances when this cannot happen. In these cases, it is suggested that signage, tape, or covers be used on seating designating which can and cannot be used. For example, green and red stickers with wording such as “Sit Here” on a green sticker, and “Do NOT Sit Here” on a red sticker.

How is it possible to maintain 6′ social distancing with 50% capacity in a classroom?  Does this apply to all types of classrooms configurations?

Social distancing measures apply to all classroom configurations, regardless of capacity limitations.  The capacity calculations also take into effect equipment needed (as in lab hoods) and the actual layout of the room itself.

The subject of screening/access/contact tracing and treatment and the impact on FM has not been raised. What are the experiences of the individual panelists?

Each institution is evaluating their own processes for what steps to take on this subject. Some institutions will do testing before entering the grounds, with quarantine until test results are back, and then testing again after 14 days. This will require staggered admissions. All students will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing, with these rules being enforced by staff and faculty. Some schools will offer free contact tracing courses to facilitate students taking part in the process, as well as cleaning supplies and masks being available in every classroom, and special areas designated for quarantine needs.

There was talk about the need to have hundreds of signs produced for social distancing guidance. ; were those fabricated on site or from an outside contractor?

Some institutions have their own signage department, while others are contracting or finding local vendors to produce the many signs that will be needed.  The CDC has suggestions on signage that can be repurposed with the institution’s logo, as well as ideas on how and where to put them (as an example, a large building requires approximately 230 signs that go everywhere from security desks, restrooms, and elevators, to stairwells, hallways, etc.)

What square footage are you planning in a classroom per student to allow for 6’ spacing between students and the professor?

Purdue University’s perspective is that faculty are to teach a minimum distance of 10 feet from students. When that’s not possible, portable shields are to be available, as well as (potentially) face shields. All courses will be available online for those who cannot attend class.

With physical barriers in restroom stalls, does that not serve as a physical barrier that precludes the six-foot distancing?

This is still being evaluated due to plumbing codes in different jurisdictions, which specify the number of fixtures required in bathrooms to provide for public health, safety and welfare—and whether or not they will be adjusted to meet the current distancing and hygiene requirements of COVID-19.

Has anyone received confirmed documentation on decreased social distancing with the use of plexiglass panels (e.g., two students at both ends of a 4 ft table with plexiglass in between)?

There are currently no confirmations on this as many are still evaluating the safety of the design.

Are educational institutions controlling traffic flow between classes?  One way?  Two way?  How about on stairs?

Traffic control is being attempted by lowering the number of students on campus with the use of alternating days that students attend in-person classes and online classes. Additionally, attempts are being made by adding signage for one-way walkways and/or hallways, as well as entrance and exit points, and using directional signage on stairs to limit and control flow.  Some are taking the view that contact duration time is low, so wearing a mask in these instances will suffice.

Has anyone decided to ignore social distancing among students in the classroom while protecting the instructor?

Each entity must recognize the need to protect both the student (low risk) and faculty (high, at-risk) populations. We must then address and develop prototypes for classroom setups for broad-based buy-in before setting institution-wide standards.

If there is a resurgence of the virus during the summer, how quickly will the fall academic and re-congregation schedule be adjusted? Could it be pushed into January?

Many institutions plan to make a final decision on reopening around June 1 or shortly thereafter, even though there are still many unknowns in developing better testing and contact tracing. If there is a resurgence, modifications should be based on metrics that the State Department of Health use, and final decisions made in mid to late July, before the students start arriving. Then the obvious becomes to start in January and to be online the entire fall semester. Universities are working through every scenario. And while some are planning to be active and open in the fall, most plans include other options for some sort of hybrid with “if-then” scenarios that allow for pivoting and flexibility. 

How would you propose to reconcile the tensions between the medical data and the political/financial/economic pressures that are very much alive and pushing decisions?  And what data would you recommend as the right decision-making triggers?

There is no one data set that will give you the right answer since this is a very complex problem. There are multiple data sets that we need to examine and triangulate between those data sets. An institution needs to look at their risk tolerance in terms of health, finance, liability, and ongoing business. I don’t know of any institution that would be able to shut down for a year and say well “we’ll come back when there’s a vaccine.” So, we’ve got to use the best available data we have, and make the best decisions that we can recognizing that we’re constantly gathering more data.  We have to maintain flexibility in our plans as we go forward, and be ready to adapt and change quickly.

How can we trust the data when serological tests can be found to be only approximately 85 percent accurate, and there are many counterfeit tests available  that do not have FDA approval or verification?

Here we are in early May, looking for solutions that are going to help us open our institutions in August and September and do it safely. And it’s hard to feel comfortable with an 85% test accuracy given the liability, health, and social issues that we’re dealing with. However, there is a concerted push in the U.S., Canada, and globally for  testing accuracy and accessibility, contact tracing, treatment, and of course a vaccine. There are many factors about the testing that an educational institution must consider. One is accuracy, and the other is expense. A few institutions have announced their approach for fall.  They plan to test students, faculty and staff and recognize the need for students to be retested several times throughout the semester. And, if the student goes home, they will need to be tested before they come back onto the campus. Also, if the student uses up more than their allotted number of tests, they may be expected to pay for one, or quarantine before they come back into the campus population. Recognizing the possibility of a resurgence or second wave of the virus, will be a game changer. A few institutions have already announced that they will end the semester in late November (in anticipation of the Thanksgiving break) as they take into account the coming flu season.  Certainly, we are going to need accurate tests at a reasonable cost sooner rather than later. The liability issues are enormous.

What methods are other institutions using to have faculty feel safe coming back?

The same practices used to keep students safe are being used to keep faculty safe. However, the reality is that some faculty members—regardless of the extent of the testing protocols and safety measures—will not choose to return.

How can we handle out-of-state students if a governor has an isolation policy for 14 days in effect for any person entering the state?

APPA has learned that some states have tried to impose mandatory quarantine for out-of-state visitors. However, there are no federal regulations on this matter, or a way to enforce them. Most institutions are going to have both in- and out-of-state students, and if any such issues do come up, there will need to be space for possible quarantine measures that include single rooms with private bathroom and kitchen accommodations, and of course, proper testing capabilities.

Are institutions getting requests for sneeze guards in advance of reopening?

APPA has learned that sneeze guards are definitely an important tool, and that some institutions are installing this type of safety equipment that drop down almost completely so there is no room for a student/ customer to reach in with their hands. This seems to be the best recommendation to date.

Can the virus be spread by pets?

No, it cannot. However, it has been reported that felines and canines can also get the virus.

Have you heard about the counterfeit N-95 masks, and could you offer advice on how to protect against them?

Work with your procurement office to ensure proper specifications are written for masks that are identified and approved for safe use by the CDC and your Local Health Department.

How long does the virus survive on different types of surfaces?

According to ACHA staff and their review of a recent study published (March 20) in the New England Journal of Medicine (with its limitations of being done in a lab), SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days and the amount (inoculum) of virus is key in infection. The study found that the virus is viable for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper.  It is also detectable in the air for three hours. These numbers reflect why social and physical distancing is an important tool in addressing COVID-19, and why we need to restrict large group gatherings to lower transmission.

With the Spanish Flu of 1918, it was the later mutation that resulted in the greatest impact.  Are we concerned this could also happen with COVID-19?

This remains unknown and speculative.  We will have to wait and see over time.

Maintenance/HVAC/Building Optimization

Is there an additional focus on waterborne pathogen mitigation for domestic water systems that lay dormant or see minimal use?

Campuses should make sure that they flush their systems as part of their protocol for reopening. At no other time has the flushing out of systems been so critical with regard to the possibility of any type of Legionella that could be present in areas where water has been stagnant.

Are there any recommendations for music conservatory practice rooms where mask wearing is not possible? Would additional HEPA filtration be beneficial?

Due to the difficulty of wearing masks while playing musical instruments and conducting voice lessons, it is best that these classes be moved outdoors.

Do indoor humidity levels affect virus transmission?

Research does not support that humidity reduces the viability of the virus or is beneficial in any other way, so humidification is not being recommended. It is also important to note that high levels of humidity can in fact result in condensation and microbial growth within walls, on windows, and in duct work.

Due to social distancing, most classrooms will be only half or less full.  In a reverse engineering move, doesn’t that double the outside air per person assuming there is no CO2 reduction?  Would you still increase outside air at the air handler?

If buildings have ventilation controls, it is recommended that the minimum ventilation rate per number of people using the space be used. Overventilation can cause other problems, and we must be good stewards of our assets by keeping energy costs down whenever we can do so safely.

Given rooms with 6 ACHs (air changes per hour) or better, how effective are portable air cleaning units?

These are great for small spaces (especially K-12 classrooms) that are occupied for long periods of time. However, air flow currents stirring the air within the room must be considered, so the room perimeters could be problematic if they are not moved around occasionally.

How are service employees being protected when replacing filters? Is a certain level of PPE and or training needed?

Employees should utilize the same precautions you would normally take when changing your filters are recommended (i.e., wearing a good respirator, since there is some dust associated with the procedure).

Are the three air changes of outside air recommended for pre- and post-occupancy flushing?  Is this on a continuous 8am-5pm basis?

Running a purge cycle pre- and post-occupancy can remove any concentration of contaminants. The goal is to reduce dynamic concentrations by 95% or more by having three total air changes, so that could be over a one-hour period, a half-hour, or two hours depending on the space.

Is there guidance for HVAC strategies relating to reduction of pathogenic transmission for design of new buildings and /or major renovations?

Although there are people looking into this, the guidance largely relies on a lot of mathematics that include assumptions that we don’t yet know the answers to. And if changes are made to systems, we don’t know the ramifications those changes will have on energy use, and climate change is still a real factor in making these decisions. So, at least at this time, there is no specific guidance.

Is using the 62.1 IAQP Method (versus the VRP Method) accepted or discouraged for vent rate determination?

Ventilation flushing in accordance with local code requirements or ASHRAE standard 62.1 increases air flow rates, but the significant energy penalty involved must be taken into consideration.

What has the experience been with bipolar ionization in air handlers, and is there any CDC reference material on this approach compared to other methods?

Bipolar ionization is a proven strategy for dealing with pathogens, but the research is not clear on what it can do with the coronavirus. While it could be proven to be very effective, we need to wait for additional research.

What is the recommended air exchange in classrooms, and does it help to increase the exchanges per hour?

Thinking through the pure physics of cooling and heating space rates, anywhere from 5 to 20 interchange rates per hour are common (based on whatever the heating or cooling load is for their space in your climate zone.) However, those are usually the spaces where you would have complaints about air noise and maybe even drafts. 

When does a higher MERV cause potential equipment problems?

Higher MERV filters have higher resistance, and as the pressure in the duct system goes up, several things can happen–from using more energy, to reduced air flow, to reduced comfort. Air conditioner coils can get too cold and freeze and even damage the compressor. Similar things can happen with the furnace, as low air flow means the furnace heat exchanger gets hotter and can crack. If that happens, the duct system can become a carbon monoxide distribution system.  

You can find more information on this subject here:

Does “airborne transmission” mean that the virus can be emitted in one space, get into the HVAC system, and enter another space where it can cause an infection in the second disconnected space?

Currently, we don’t have a clear answer on this. As we learn more about the virus, the need to address airborne transmission modes has become apparent. However, we have no definitive data that addresses the percentage of cases coming from the airborne pathways, or how long or how far the virus can travel.

With as much as 45% of infected people being asymptomatic, should we treat the filter change as if there has been an exposure as a precaution?

The same precautions you would normally take when changing air filters are recommended (i.e., wearing a good respirator, since there is some dust associated with the procedure).

Typical room ventilation mixes the air with 3 to 6 air changes per hour.  Even with 100% outside air (assuming that air is better), the typical air system will move viruses around a diluted room and air system.  UV bulbs in the air handler only cover the air handler.  Ozone generators can be dangerous.  What do you think about ionizers (assuming it’s a non-ozone producer), and can the outside air be reduced helping with first cost and operation cost? 

Under no circumstances would reducing outdoor airflow rates be recommended during pandemic operation.  There have been statements from bipolar ionization manufacturers regarding application of their systems reducing potential for virus transmission risk.  At this point, we are not aware of any independent studies that both use SARS-CoV-2 and reflect real-world operating conditions for a classroom or similar educational type space.  That’s not to say that there may not be benefits to using these types of systems. However, given the many questions that remain regarding transmission of the virus through an airborne pathway, any claims should be carefully considered.  Currently, the fundamental recommendations are likely to increase either outdoor air flow rates / air change rates of clean air and to improve filtration to MERV-13 or better if possible.  Additionally, steps such as bipolar ionization, UV-C/UVGI, photocatalytic oxidation, etc., should be considered as additional processes for consideration. 

What about the use of mini-split type AC units in rooms that do not have fresh air systems designed in?

Unfortunately, these types of systems do not appear to be likely to help with mitigating spread of the virus.  In fact, in some cases, it appears at least possible that they have helped airborne transmission to occur.  If a space with this type of unit is going to be occupied, additional steps are likely warranted, such as opening windows if possible or installing terminal HEPA filtration units. 

What do you perceive the reduction of pathogen spread to be if outside air is increased from 10-15% to 30%, given that energy efficiency will be impacted? 

This question is likely very system-dependent and may depend on other factors such as improvement in filtration efficiency and depending on the system. For terminal systems that primarily recirculate (heat pumps, fan coils, VRF systems, unit ventilators, etc.) and can’t accommodate increased filter efficiency, doubling the outdoor air flow rate may have a meaningful impact in mitigating risk of airborne transmission. For larger central systems with improved filtration, any reduction in risk is likely much smaller. 

What is the opinion of a BAS “epidemic mode” that provides a pushbutton change in maximizing efficiency to maximizing health? 

Doing this is recommended as part of the Building Readiness Guidance produced by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force.  The suitability of this control strategy may depend significantly on systems, capabilities, and modifications being considered. 

With the air purification, there is a risk of increasing ozone in spaces. Are there guidelines for higher ed about the type of devices to consider using, or not to use? 

Using equipment that does not generate ozone as a byproduct is recommended.  Units that are limited to HEPA filtration should not generate ozone.  Units that incorporate additional air cleaning strategies (UV-C, PCO, etc.) should be checked to verify they do not generate ozone.  The California Air Resources Board has a list of Certified Air Cleaning Devices that meet an ozone emission concentration limit of 0.050 ppm at the following link:

Have there been any specific discussions in school districts about increased heating budgets due to extra ventilation? What numbers or percentages of current costs have been discussed?

Because ventilation of spaces will vary greatly due to the age and physcial capacity of a facility, APPA does not have a great deal of information to share on this item.  However, in general there will be additional energy costs to address extra ventilation and outside air exchange.  We encourage collaboration with local school district colleagues for further guidance.

Was an energy assessment performed to understand savings vs cost to execute/restart?

No, we did not do a detailed energy assessment before moving to reduced operations.  We are monitoring energy consumption and comparing to previous years to estimate the energy reduction.  Costs to ‘restart’ was all in-house staff; and there were no additional costs. 

Was the shutdown of your facility gradual or instantaneous to enable an energy savings shutdown?

North Carolina State University proceeded with an immediate shutdown protocol after assessment was performed. However, each institution is taking many issues into consideration when deciding what method is best for them on a case-by-case basis.

We have been doing a lot of water testing for buildings to check chlorine levels.  What would you say is the right chlorine level to go by?

APPA does not have opinions on chlorine levels of domestic water and is not aware of recommendations to increase chlorination in domestic water during the pandemic.

What is considered to be a safer or target humidity environment against the COVID-19 virus?

Research at the Harvard Medical School discovered that the spread of the virus is minimized when the relative humidity is kept between 40% and 60%.

What is recommended if we have schools with only exhausts in washrooms, and no ventilation in classrooms?

APPA, in collaboration with panelist input, would recommend checking with your local area authorities.  Everyone needs to formulate their own case by case decisions on this and APPA can’t provide exact recommendations. At North Carolina State University for example, they are considering options such as reduced occupancy (may have to do this anyway to get 6′ social distancing), open windows to get fresh air in if this is feasible, pre-cool space and turn off any recirculated air while students are in the space, etc.

What is the target humidity level we should strive to maintain?

Research at the Harvard Medical School discovered that the spread of the virus is minimized when the relative humidity is kept between 40 and 60%.

Where is the best location for in-duct installation of UV-C tubes in the HVAC?

The best location is on a track in front of the filters on the dirty side to target the bacteria in the air, or above a condensate drain pan to target the bacteria collected on a cooling coil and drained into its pan. Blasting UV light in a duct where the air flows at high speed has not been proven effective in disabling bacteria.

When you can’t utilize 100% outside air, what steps are recommended to minimize the risk of spreading the virus? Any consideration or experience treating the air with UVGI?

The most important steps to take are to make sure that all filters, filtration, air handling, and ventilation systems are working as they were designed, and make sure all HVAC systems are maintained and updated as necessary. Find the best reopening process for your institution, taking into consideration your equipment, your buildings, what the weather is like in your area, and your internal requirements.

Is there any scientific evidence regarding air handling and the spread of COVID-19?

APPA suggests reviewing our strategic partner resources from ASHRAE:   Also, refer to the other two questions (above) and associated answers as they are all interrelated.

Please explain once again the benefits of dropping ceiling returns and is this process costly?

ASHRAE’s Indoor Air Quality Standard 62.1’s Ventilation Rate Procedure specifies minimum outside air flow based on various occupancies.  It also recommends increasing the outside air flow for spaces with lower ventilation effectiveness. ASHRAE 62.1 does not only cover how many CFM (or L/s) of outside air go into an occupied space, but also how well the supply air makes it to the noses and faces of the occupants. For example, a system with a ceiling supply of cold air and ceiling return is given a ventilation effectiveness of 1.0 (it is the most common configuration, and the tables are based on it). However, if a room has a ceiling supply of warm air with ceiling return, then its ventilation effectiveness is estimated at 0.8, and the amount of CFM of outside air for a space like this would have to be increased by 25% or cfm of OA/0.8. This increase in outside air flow is to compensate for the fact that the less dense warmer air would not penetrate the mass of cold air near the floor as effectively as cold air supply and some would inevitably “bounce” on the cold air mass and short-circuit back into the return grilles on the ceiling. This situation is unique to heating systems, and is thus more common in northern regions of North America. Lowering the return grilles to the floor with duct extensions would improve the ventilation effectiveness from 0.8 to 1.0. With regards to costs, it really depends on the finishes; it’s simple enough to hire a sheet metal contractor to extend a return duct to the floor along a wall and re-install the grille near the floor, but the aesthetics of this solution is not great. So, building a box around the duct, finishing it cleanly on the ceiling, painting, etc. will add to the cost. The advantage of the ceiling supply and floor return is that we are then nearing design resembling that of a displacement, or “once-through,” ventilation in the occupied spaces. There should then be less turbulence in the air flow patterns in the space and less chance of moving a virus from one section of the space to another.

Should adding a humidifier, UV-C, or HEPA filters be a priority for HVAC improvements?

It is difficult to determine priorities of actions without more specific information about the actual facilities.  However, if I really, really had to decide for a generic space I would:

1) increase outside air flows to improve the dilution of contaminants in the occupied spaces;

2) improve filters to MERV 13 or 14 (it’s very unlikely that a HEPA filter could be reasonably justified);

3) UVGI may be added to your existing air handlers as well, but only makes sense on MERV 13 or 14 filters;

4) add humidifiers to maintain humidification levels in your spaces between 40% and 60%.  Depending on where you are located, you might not need to add humidifiers.  States in the southeastern part of the US might remain sufficiently humid in winter to naturally keep well-built facilities above 40%. Humidifiers are the most direct method to increase humidification levels in an occupied space and they can be inserted in a duct or in an air handler, or as a mister directly in the space to humidify. 

You can also consider adding a total heat recovery system (an energy recovery system for both sensible and latent heat. A heat recovery system like a heat wheel or reverse-flow system, contains some of the moisture from the exhaust air that gets transferred to the incoming outside air).

Should air hand dryers be replaced with paper towel dispensers to reduce the risk of airborne virus/bacteria being spread around the restrooms? Are you supplying paper towels if you only have hand dryers?

At this time, it seems that paper towels are the safer route to take, understanding that there will probably have to be a lot of changes made since most institutions had been going the air dryer route due to conservation considerations. Some schools are leaving them on and up to the individual to choose.  Others are disconnecting power to the units.

Should elevator fans be set to a constant “on” to possibly create a negative air space?

APPA believes this is still being debated, due to the negative implications of circulating air in a closed space, versus pulling in air into the elevator when the doors open. Especially If the quality of that air being pulled in is uncertain.

How are others handling water/drinking fountains? Both with bottle fillers and/or bubblers.

At this time, we see the tendency to utilize water bottle filling stations since most people will probably avoid water fountains, and bottled water is not economical, harder to find, and bad for the environment.  Some are also choosing to turn off water fountains.

HVAC systems:  We have already implemented increased airflow to maintain fresh air.  I’m getting lots of “advice” from customers who believe we need to upgrade filters to HEPA or install infrared systems to kill the virus in the air systems.  All the things I have read, suggest transmission through the HVAC ducts is minimal.  Is there any science to suggest these types of upgrades are required?

HEPA is likely an overkill and would be very expensive, not just to install, but to maintain, AND you may have to increase the size of your fans or motors to push through the increased static pressure of a HEPA filter versus your conventional filter (probably a MERV 13 or 14). In the end, it would make more sense to improve dilution in your occupied spaces with increased outside air flows (as you have done), rather than add more HEPA filters.

Are air cleaning systems being considered to combat COVID-19?

“Combat” is a strong word. Filters help reduce the dust particles in the air, prevent occupants from sneezing, and keep buildings generally cleaner. Filters are part of a holistic approach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, that includes increasing outside air flow, physical distancing, hand washing, masks, etc. In its comprehensive list of HVAC options, ASHRAE recommends using MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 or 14 filters.  For additional information, read ASHRAE’s Reopening of Schools and Universitiesguidelines at

Are fire marshals allowing directional changes (one stair marked up, another stair marked down) on egress stairs? 

APPA suggests consulting with NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) under NFPA 101 Life Safety Code regarding allowable alterations to directional changes.  This information can be located by visiting them at

Are you looking at spacing the use of the restrooms’ fixtures (i.e., every other toilet/urinal/sink?)

There is no plan to “reconfigure” built structures.  Instead, it is recommended that cleaning protocols be increased, and access should be limited to allow for proper sanitation.  You also can add distancing or directional markers on floors when appropriate.  You should also consult OSHA’s plumbing codes with respect to fixtures and reduced building occupancy.

Can a MERV-16 filter trap coronavirus particles?

While there’s no guarantee a strong air filter will protect you from the coronavirus, clean air helps keep your immune system strong.  (

COVID-19 virus size is between 0.06 to 0.15 micrometer. MERV 13 or 15 filters are not capable of capturing the COVID-19 virus. Only HEPA or above can do it. What is the advantage of using MERV-13?

We suspect that a single COVID-19 virus organism could hardly travel by itself through the return duct to the recirculating air handler, mix with outside air, go through a pre-filter, then a MERV 13 or 14 filter, then through coils, through the fan, through the supply ducting and survive to get back into an occupied space. If COVID-19 viruses do get sucked into a return duct from an occupied space, it is very likely going to bump and stick to dust particles or other organisms, making it bigger and easier to catch. This process, referred to as agglomeration, describes how bacteria, dust or viruses when concentrated inside a ventilation duct system, tend to stick together as they twist and turn, and speed up and slow down through various stages of the ductwork. It’s not a 100% perfect system, and HEPA (or MERV 16 filters) would be better, but HEPA filters only really make sense when the entire space is designed as a clean area; with entryways blocked and controlled, usually with pressurized vestibules, and all windows and walls are sealed, and the space static pressure differential is precisely measured and maintained. MERV 13 and 14 filters are a significant improvement on MERV 8 or below filters, like most pleated pre-filters, and they can reasonably be added to an existing system and improve the filtration efficiency of most spaces which would be beneficial. 

Doesn’t increasing the air flow promote dispersion of the COVID-19 virus?

APPA suggests reviewing our strategic partner resources from ASHRAE:

AD: I would embed this link in the word resources.   SUGGESTION:  Also refer to the answer right above this one as a way of addressing this question as well.  To my mind, they are interrelated.

Can you share thoughts on installing HEPA filters or UV inside of air handlers?

UVGI (Ultra-Violet Germicidal Irradiation) systems are added to existing filters, usually MERV 13 or 14.  A low-intensity UV light bulb mounted on tracks on the dirty side of the filter bank slowly moves from one end of the filter bank to the other and back to shine a UV light to disable the bacteria caught in the filter media. UVGI systems work at disabling the reproductive system of bacteria by exposing them to a minimum product of intensity of UV by time of exposure: (minimum effective irradiation = time of exposure x UV light intensity). Early models of UVGI systems used higher intensity lights in air handlers and would essentially try to irradiate bacteria as they flew by in the air stream. These systems were not particularly effective at disabling bacteria, but they were excellent at melting plastics inside air handlers. Today’s UVGI systems opt for lower intensity lights (so lower electric consumption) and slowly flood the filter media laden with bacteria with deadly light. UV light can kill the COVID-19 virus, but the WHO warns that wands and other similar UV devices designed to disinfect hands, masks, or clothes are not effective.

In closing buildings down, are steps being taken to prevent mold from developing?

Some areas are prone to mold or mildew growth due to low airflow, especially during the summer months. Overall, it’s important to maintain a minimum HVAC set point to ensure that there is air flow especially through specific, targeted spaces that are known to be affected. This makes walkthroughs more important when closing a building or minimizing its activity. It’s also an opportunity to maximize potential energy savings.

When shutting down buildings, what practices are best with regard to domestic water flushing and minimal HVAC procedures for asset protection?

The best approach is to get baseline readings and set up a six-week flushing schedule in order to make sure there is proper flow, and then test against the baseline before the buildings are reopened.

Has there been a need for short-term renovations to reconfigure spaces that may not adequately support social distancing or other health-safety measures? For example, open office models or recreation centers that may have people working in closer proximity than recommended.

Rather than renovating, some institutions are removing some equipment and furniture to allow people to safe-distance. This can be done quickly and with the available staff.   Other options (for example in a clinic) could include barriers at entrances where sick patients can be guided to one side for treatment.  Clinics (and potentially child care centers) use negative pressure so the air does not recirculate in that particular room.

Are you anticipating that campuses will be redirecting funds or have spending freezes in the foreseeable future?

APPA has learned that there are definite plans by some institutions to redirect funds, and it stands to reason that there will be spending and hiring freezes in the coming months as this crisis unfolds. Depending upon the institution or state, some institutions have halted or severely curtailed construction projects, while others are continuing under their present funding. Nobody knows the exact answer to this, but there is a sense that this crisis will have an impact on how universities operate overall. We not only encourage our members to adapt as the situation unfolds, but also to create your own scenarios and corresponding contingency plans for your institution’s senior leadership team. You should continue to focus on the use of any and all tools at your disposal to respond to and anticipate whatever challenges lay ahead.

How has COVID-19 affected long-term planning on your campus? 

With COVID-19 still unfolding, long-term planning has given way to dealing with short-term issues for the time being. Although no one knows how enrollment will be impacted in the fall, everyone should be working on contingency plans and modeling staffing/labor, construction projects, and operational reductions based on a variety of financial scenarios.

Are there questions being asked about what projects are going to look like after the COVID-19 crisis is over?

APPA recommends that we look ahead 12-18 months, taking into consideration possible staffing, labor and supply chain issues. For example, we could be 3-12 weeks behind in getting supplies from China or other vendors. This makes thinking ahead for possible substitution items and alternate supply chains a prudent thing to do. We also have no idea what staffing will look like once we get through this.What is the risk of COVID-19 making its way to air filters in normal central HVAC systems such as office or classroom buildings?  

Should institutions be looking at reducing air flow so that COVID-19 is not blown around?   
Increase outdoor air ventilation (use caution in highly polluted areas); with a lower population in the building, this increases the effective dilution ventilation per person.
* Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV).
* Further open minimum outdoor air dampers, as high as 100%, thus eliminating recirculation (in the mild weather season, this need not affect thermal comfort or humidity, but clearly becomes more difficult in extreme weather).

What are best practices for building mechanical systems settings (temperature, run times, supply air, etc.)?

* Improve central air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass.
* Keep systems running longer hours, if possible 24/7, to enhance the two actions above.
* Consider portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters.
* Consider UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), protecting occupants from radiation, particularly in high-risk spaces such as waiting rooms, prisons, and shelters.

Has your campus been asked by their community to use university facilities as temporary morgues, or for patients not infected with COVID-19?

Yes, APPA has learned that Fitchburg State University located in Massachusetts’s has been asked to utilize Landry Arena as a temporary morgue, and the University of Sussex in the UK is also assisting with this. Other institutions are utilizing empty residence halls as temporary housing for local healthcare workers.   

Are there any emerging practices regarding communication and information gathering with contractors on supply chain and labor forces? When we have 100-plus active projects, it can be difficult to aggregate the information.

The University of Iowa uses SharePoint so that everybody can update information as they themselves get updates from contractors and manufacturers (such as what materials are being delayed and for how long.) We also discuss those issues during conference calls. The point is to share information across the entire organization, so that everyone knows what impacts we are facing.

Because of this crisis, some subcontractors and unions don’t want to work, causing projects to get delayed. How will this be treated in terms of contractual obligations. Will this be treated as Force Majeure?

As these are unprecedented times, APPA recommends conversation with general counsel about your specific situation and possible solutions before engaging in conversations with your general contractors and/or subcontractors and finalizing your plans.

Do you foresee construction costs dropping so significantly that institutions should get projects shovel ready?

APPA’s research encourages institutions to prepare projects to be shovel ready while sheltering in place.  As contractors rely on subcontractors, they are looking for backlogs in conjunction with discretionary spending.  Now is the time allocate projects that can be design approved and ready for the construction portion of the process later.

Do you see the way of doing business changing to online-management or remote-management instead of going to a campus office to manage our projects?  Would that be a way of saving costs?

We’re learning our project sites are utilizing virtual tools (videos or FaceTime) allowing inspectors to approve construction online so that projects aren’t held up. We also realize that with so many people working remotely, staying in touch with them is very important. Implementing a daily check-in allows for supervision as well as making sure staff is safe and managing working remotely well. This can be followed up with an evening update to the entire department every weeknight to keep the communication lines open.

Even though Iowa isn’t under a “stay-at-home” order, many of us are following that advice. From the perspective of “flattening the curve,” how does Iowa make the call as to what really should be deemed an essential construction project, given the very real challenges of people working together on a construction site? For example, how can workers realistically do construction work while staying more than 6′ apart from each other?

Essential construction projects are identified by making sure that they are constantly evaluated, and possibly delaying or suspending the work if safety concerns arise, or a stay-at-home order is given. The important thing is that we keep advancing toward that milestone of the fall semester as our target, while keeping staff and community safety as the top priority.

Some believe that the leadership in higher education is being asked to make distance learning (now being proven to work to one degree or another) be a much larger portion of the higher ed programs in the future. That would lead to the conclusion that less square footage will be necessary. Also, with the expected reduction in enrollment at many institutions, revenues will be down, causing severe financial strain as well. Can you speak to these possibilities, and their impact on future construction and renovation activity?

As this is still evolving, it truly is anyone’s guess what the impact online learning will ultimately have in higher education. It may not be that one replaces the other. Potentially, there is still a huge demand for in-person education.

Have the universities (Iowa and Texas) refunded room and board funds to students?

APPA’s members are sharing strategies such as providing credits to the fall or future semester classes, while others have also issued partial refunds for the winter semester that was cut short. Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, for instance, is refunding room and board for the half semester remaining this academic year.

If we knew that certain materials or equipment faced a 12-16 weeks lead time before this crisis started, should we be adding an additional 3 to 12 weeks on top of those original lead times?

The lead times on the procurement of materials and equipment are growing, due to some manufacturers shutting down for the stay-at-home orders. The best thing to do is to contact many different manufactures and reevaluate every project. It is estimated that anywhere from 3-8 weeks will need to be added to timelines established prior to the CODIV-19 crisis.

Has campus capital construction continued in states with stay-at-home orders in place?

APPA’s members are sharing that campus capital construction is continuing while implementing strict social distancing guidelines and practices as outlined by state, local & federal guidelines, and policies in conjunction with CDC guidelines. However, an APPA business partner reports that in several states that do not have stay-at-home orders, construction is unfortunately continuing with little adherence to social distancing protocols. APPA does not support this approach.

How do we provide services for the University, Health Sciences, and the Hospital with teleworkers in an environment that changes daily?

Communication is critical in making sure that teleworkers as well as the public, hospital staff, and facilities staff are up to date on a daily basis with regard to changes in projects, processess, and procedures.

Many campuses had carbon reduction goals slated for 2030 or later. Will campuses continue to focus on carbon reduction and climate change, or possibly redirect funds?

APPA has found that most instituions are able to maintain their carbon reduction goals in place while working remotely. However, sheltering in place has done far more to achieve carbon neutral and greenhouse gas emission reductions than anything we could have done as builders or contractors.

How have bond expenditure requirements over 3 years for ongoing projects been impacted? Do you see any kind of relief coming?

At this time, we do not have information on the impact COVID-19 will have on bonds, or what the current thinking is. 

What about ongoing research activities, and EH&S/waste removal and disposal?

APPA’s members are sharing that research is continuing based on the definitions of “essential” as determined by senior leadership.  As many daily operations are reduced (with onsite staff reduction to allow the implementation of social distancing) a reduction in the requirements of waste removal, as well as disposal, must be assessed on a daily basis.

What about those projects that were planned to be financed via bond sales?  is anyone talking about bond market expectations and how that might impact capital development?

At this time, we do not have specific information on the impact COVID-19 will have on existing bonds or the bond market overall.  However, our panelists stated it was a great time to borrow money, and an opportunity to refinance at lower interest rates. 

What is your plan in responding to any delay claims for time, money, or both?

APPA suggests that you communicate often with your contractors and suppliers.  As they are partners in delivering your campus projects, this conversation should already be occurring and you should be tracking and documenting all delay/compensable costs in case disputes arise and/or federal/state recovery rograms emerge in the future.

What we are seeing with regard to vandalism or concerns of vacant buildings?

APPA has seen an increase in walkthroughs of buildings on a regular basis to make sure they are secure as well as not in need of maintenance work, such as leaks, or other issues. Keeping points or entry and exit the same is also helpful in maintaining surveillance and control of buildings.

How about the HVAC systems feeding the area of an infected person’s room?  What maintenance requirements should we employ beyond standard cleaning, repair, etc.? 

It is recommended that you isolate those HVAC systems as much as possible from other places where non-infected people reside. Close dampers as much as possible to isolate air flow, or consider temporary space heat/cooling to limit the sharing of air.

Given that there’s a huge focus on cleaning touch points, what role do the HVAC units and systems play in the transmission of COVID-19? 

If there is a terminal unit (air handler vent) in the space that can easily be touched like a wall/floor mount unit, disinfecting that on a regular basis along with all other surface cleaning is recommended. This advice would also extend to any thermostat or temperature/fan controls/sensors located in an occupied space.

What is the risk of COVID-19 making its way to air filters in normal central HVAC systems such as office or classroom buildings?

From what we know the Virus can survive on surfaces, so air filters and ductwork (associated with conventional HVAC) are included in these surfaces.  As it may be unrealistic to immediately disinfect all the ductwork of a building, increased filter changes could be a very effective method of control for offices and classroom conventional HVAC. The CDC recommends immediately bagging and securely closing the bag, then disposing of the filter/bag as a regular solid waste. Refer to the CDC Environmental Control Guidelines part C.I.B.7.

Regarding an office or classroom served by a decentralized system such as Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF,) the primary concern would be the Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) unit servicing the space. If this unit has an energy recovery device like a wheel, cross contamination of the airstream could exist and a virus or airstream in a VRF system could go from space to space.  Otherwise VRF systems only circulate the air of the room in which they are installed.

Should institutions be looking at reducing air flow so that COVID-19 is not blown around? 

To our knowledge, outside air regulations need to be code-driven, and there is no information at this time on whether or not there is an air velocity that spreads or doesn’t spread the virus. Large HVAC systems are very interdependent, with one feature of the system (moving air) supporting the action of another feature. Reducing airflow could keep HVAC coils wet, which could cause an adverse side effect such as leaks, mold, or increased CO2 levels.

Are there any concerns going forward about testing/disinfecting HVAC air handling systems for COVID-19?

We expect studies to be done on this, but at this time, there are just too many unknowns. However, if you have UV Lights, Bipolar Deionization, or high feature Air Filters, they can only help (based on what we know of these extra HVAC measures and equipment) whether they directly kill the virus or not.

Since buildings are sparsely populated, do you recommend doing walk-throughs by facilities staff to check for issues (such as leaks) that otherwise would have been reported by occupants?

APPA recommends that you utilize this time to perform all such walkthroughs while occupancy is minimal.

Do you have any maintenance and ops personnel wearing N-95 masks? When and where are you requiring PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gloves?

APPA recommends, based on typical practice, that O&M staff do not need to wear PPE, but if there is a request and it will help calm staff, then allow it and try to support.  PPE should primarily be targeted for use by public safety personnel, medical staff, and first responders.

For steam plant operations, are you implementing “shelter-in-place” living at the plant (like they do on ships,) and then rotate in and out for longer term (days, weeks)?

APPA considers this a recommended practice if operating your own plant, and helps to ensure 3-4 separate shifts can be achieved.

How about shutting off services, such as gas, if labs are not being utilized?

From Dave Turnquist, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus: “We are keeping our labs open for critical research only.  Critical research is reviewed and approved by senior research faculty leadership.  While everyone thinks their research is critical, not all is considered as such so we have a number of labs that are shut down. 

“We have a number of house gases – gases that are centralized and distributed through piping network to the labs.  Those remain operational and monitored.  Other gases are brought into the lab in cylinders. If a lab is not operational, the valves are simply shut off.  I am maintaining staff in all the buildings, although in a reduced number and capacity.  I feel confident that with the rounds they continue to make in the research areas, keeping the house gases active at the valve in the lab, we are okay.  I am not sure if turning the gases off at the centralized locations is a good idea or not.  I would be concerned about air getting into the system, possibly creating gaps or bubbles.”

In unoccupied buildings, how will HVAC be managed to ensure excess humidity is controlled with regard to equipment, mold growth, and downstream insurance claims?

APPA recommends using a skeleton crew for walk-throughs even when the buildings are empty. This emphasizes why facilities crews staying on campus is vital, and why vacating all personnel is not the right decision.

Is there an effort being made toward reducing energy use in empty or low occupancy buildings?

Based on shared information, APPA recommends that this must be done aggressively, as we will be dealing with financial issues post this event. Our community does not suggest mothballing, as it is a much more expensive alternative.

Are you dividing up your workforce into different shifts?

From Norm Young, University of Hartford:  “Skilled trades are working only as needed.  Most are home and on-call (still getting paid).  Those who come in on a regular basis are rotated; for example, a plumber comes in three times per week for various duties such as grease trap inspection/cleaning.  An HVAC tech comes in three times per week to check various systems.  Two grounds staff come in three times per week to deal with trash and any other issues that come up.  Our custodial group was planned to be rotated but we changed that in favor of bringing all of them in on regular shifts since we had more activity on campus than we expected. 

“Most of the schools I know of have all of their staff in.  Our reason for not doing that included compliance with ‘stay home’ requests from the state to stop the spread, a desire to stop virtually all spending, and a desire to keep our staff healthy.  I expect more change as we contemplate making more spaces available to our local municipalities and hospitals for patient care should it be needed.”


Will this crisis make it so custodians stop being the “easy” attrition means for budget savings?

APPA is hearing that custodians will not be an easy attrition group due to the need for disinfecting regimens and the level of sanitizing common areas that the community has come to expect. Institutions need to have a clearly documented service level for custodians as a reference point and use with your campus community.

Are there staffing work plans that can be shared? 

Because there are so many facets to creating a work plan in this environment, the first step is to identify what level of workforce planning is right for your institution, and in which time frame you are working with. For example, if the state or region in question is set to have essential personnel working until April 20, then a work plan needs to be in place until that date. At that point, a new needs assessment will have to be implemented, or the current plan should be extended. In other words, stay flexible and look at work plans in appropriate increments of time, so they can be reevaluated and move from time frame to time frame. Most importantly, put contingency plans in place given the disruptive, albeit destructive, change we all face well into the future. Be prepared!

Can staff use EFMLA (Emergency Family Medical Leave Act) to supplement their normal 40-hour work week? Is that up for interpretation?

APPA recommends that you and your leadership ensure that staff are kept up to date on the latest briefing on EFMLA from the Department of Labor and your institution’s defined policy(s).

Do people have ideas around teleworking for essential staff that would otherwise need to do work on campus? We are trying to assign special projects or other tasks to keep people working from home but have run out of ideas.

APPA highly encourages teleworking staff to augment their professional development while working remotely. Many online continuous learning options are available through APPA and other professional organizations. There is also an opportunity to identify gaps in coverage or allow for the cross-training of staff.

Due to COVID-19, Moody’s just downgraded the higher education market sector’s outlook from “stable” to “negative.” Is it possible that the stimulus request of $47 billon will help with this issue?

At this point, there’s a lot of speculation and unknowns on this front. It’s important to emphasize that the $47 billion figure is still just a request. The existing $14 billion funding passed by Congress will be disbursed using a formula developed by the Department of Education. Each institution’s allocation has been posted on the ACE website. It is important for institutions to think broadly and creatively.  These stimulus funds are just one revenue source and will surely not cover the depth and breadth of the institution’s revenue shortfalls. The more we prepare now, the better position we will be in to do the best we can for all employees and the organizations that we support.

[More about this topic will be addressed at APPA’s Town Hall (4/24/20) on Financial Considerations now and into the coming academic year.]

How do you manage communicating COVID-19 information to non-English speaking employees?  Do you have translation tools in place?

Most institutions do not have translation tools or official translators readily available. This is an issue, because before COVID-19, employees could sit together to help each other with translation, and now that’s no longer possible due to physical distancing measures. To assist, some institutions use students (when available) and/or request their bilingual employees to translate messages so they can be understood by non-English speaking employees.

Has anyone started working on a facilities operations COVID-19 work plan strategy, that details what we are currently doing today, and how our activities and resources will potentially change in the upcoming months?

There is a definite need for gathering and maintaining current resources and preparing scenarios for how various activities and resource levels might change.  Everyone should be reviewing and updating their information regularly (even daily) to make sure it is up to date with current and ever-changing data and information.  APPA strives to do so as well, providing the latest links and the current information given this constant state of change. It is important to rely on and connect with your leadership in an open and transparent way since the workforce that might be needed six months from now could be different than what it is today let alone two months ago. 

In these chaotic and sensitive times, staff looks more to our facilities directors and managers for direction, comfort, and motivation. The one challenge that seems to resonate so much is how we, as managers, manage to be empathetic while still conveying fairness in the specific decisions we make.

It is important to be intentional about staying connected to staff, especially those working remotely. It is also important to know that it is OK not to have all the answers to all the questions that come up, and to take into consideration special dynamic (needs and fears) in the personal situations of employees. We are all struggling with the realities and concerns of this pandemic. Therefore, it is important to recognize each person’s strengths and be natural, authentic, and genuine in making your decisions.

What actions are recommended or available to us as supervisors/employers when an employee says they may have been exposed by a family member or friend, but the employee’s family member/friend has not been tested or their test is still pending?  Our workforce is very concerned about the possibility of exposure from a coworker in this way. We already have as many employees as possible working from home and have implemented mandatory social distancing in the workplace. I feel we need to be proactive when there is a potential hazard from an employee, even if they have not yet been directed to quarantine.

APPA believes that the best course of action is to defer to the CDC Guidelines, and any specific rules or regulations outlined by your state/Local Health Departments, along with that of your institution. Currently the CDC specifies that in order to be exposed, there must be direct contact with someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, and that testing does not take place unless there are symptoms. However, these guidelines are being updated and should be monitored regularly as new information concerning the virus and its transmission is determined by health officials.

What are some creative ways to communicate with staff who do not check emails on a regular basis, without having to rely on frontline supervisors to do that communicating for us?

Given social/physical distancing measures, leaving messages in a central location (e.g., where people clock in or out) might not work well.  It may be better to use a message board where staff can practice safe distancing measures. However, most importantly, communicate with supervisors and staff concerning the continued efficacy of message boards, their location, and be creative in where you post them to ensure the information is being communicated and transmitted effectively (e.g., one creative way the panel suggested was to post on the mowers as the grounds employee will certainly see it there).

When people are permitted to return to work, will they be tested?  What may be the process for responding to a potential incident where a person becomes ill at work? Will there need to be a clean-up team, and the area where the person was ill potentially isolated to permit time to kill the virus?

Planning for the return to work is certainly on everyone’s minds right now. However, no one knows the time frame when that will happen, nor what procedures will be in place to ensure safety. This will be up to each state, and the institution itself. Consider contingency plans addressing a variety of scenarios. 

While each university has their own environmental, health, and safety regulations on how to prevent spreading of COVID-19, we should refer to other countries who have done this well, such as Taiwan and South Korea. People in these countries wear face masks and continue their daily activities. Schools are continuing to operate, and government employees are still working at their offices, not from home.

APPA strongly recommends following local and state regulations and the CDC Guidelines.

Why did the age for high risk change from 60 to 65?

The CDC is constantly updating its processes and procedures as we learn more about this virus and its effect on humans, especially with respect to differing age groups and ranges. We urge everyone to check the CDC Website often for updates.     

I know with HIPPA rules, privacy is key.  However, if someone you work with was exposed or diagnosed with COVID-19, are there special guidelines to ensure staff is notified so that the virus doesn’t spread further?  Does the general public have a right to know who has been diagnosed in order to protect themselves and their family?  What if we are told to work with someone who has possibly been exposed?

First and foremost, it is critical that you formally address specific circumstances at your institution with your HR department staff, facilities leadership, and senior leadership team. Also, the U.S. Health & Human Services (and Canadian counterpart) has published interim guidelines for the relaxation of HIPPA regulations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. FERPA guidelines (which relate to most colleges and universities more specifically) provide college health and counseling treatment approaches. Besides the specific policies, procedures, and decisions implemented by your institution, these are the best resources to seek via external websites.

What are some appropriate ways to address racism as it relates to COVID-19?

APPA recommends that issues of this nature be referred to an institution’s general counsel and senior leadership team, as it is beyond a standard HR matter.

Do you have an enhanced compensation package for those employees required to work, while others are getting compensated to remain at home? When you “close” a campus, does that trigger “emergency pay” for certain workers?

APPA reminds its members that campus employees are working in a remote environment, so campuses are not considered closed.

Who makes the decision to reduce staff? The University President? Human Resources? Finance?  How are “essential services” defined?

APPA recognizes that this is the decision of a senior leadership team (NIMS/ Critical Team/Incident Team). However, it is critical for FM to be involved in the decision-making process, or have a direct communication link to the team, to ensure that FM needs are being met.

It seems that the only people that are being taken care of are the supervisors. The manual labor employees are only doing “social distancing.” What are your thoughts on this?

Not the case nationwide, and everyone in FM should be setting the example of appropriate social and physical distancing.

Is anyone being asked to absorb other university employees and/or students into Facilities?

APPA is seeing this practice occurring, and it will be addressed at the APPA Town Hall on March 27th.

Is anyone seeing hiring freezes? I have the Director EHS and Emergency position open!

APPA is seeing this occur on a case-by-case basis.

Have any of you had a central request to staff/faculty/students to self-report if they test positive?

If no policies and procedures are in place, they should be developed. As soon as symptoms appear the individual needs to self-isolate.

How are people handling sick time for quarantine? Is emergency leave being used, or is comp time being exhausted first?

Our communities will address this based on institutional policies, and establish guidelines for better definitions.

How are you handling internal FM maintenance support for construction projects that now have reduced staffing levels?

APPA recommends implementing as much remote functioning as possible with short campus visits while executing physical distancing practices.  For example: 6hrs home and 2hrs on campus.

How are you dealing with staff who is afraid to come to work? Some are high risk, based on age and preexisting medical conditions?

APPA strongly encourages engaging directly, communicating often, ensuring sensitivity and accommodating as much as possible.

Are you mandating custodians to come in?  Is there a liability if you mandate them?

APPA strongly encourages working with staff on a case-by-case basis, with sensitivity to needs and concerns.

Thoughts on how to ‘legally/properly’ identify essential personnel; when an area should go on lock-down; and what to do if employees need to travel to and from work, and are questioned along the way?

APPA recommends such a policy to be in place already before lock-down occurs.

How have Unions and Leadership interacted to find solutions to staffing, etc.?

APPA has had very positive feedback from members who have these relationships thus far.  Everyone is working together and offering help where needed.

How do you handle work refusals under the applicable Occupational Safety & Health Act/regulations?

APPA strongly encourages engaging directly, communicating often, ensuring sensitivity and accommodating as much as possible.  However, standing HR policies would reign. 

Have the abilities of any of your custodial workforce been questioned by customers or fellow custodians?  That is, if one employee has different capabilities than another, have there been any concerns expressed, from the custodial staff and/or the customers, regarding their safety or proper cleaning practices?

APPA reminds the community that this is the responsibility of supervisors/managers to address on a case-by-case basis. Training and communicating with staff constantly about facts and safe practices is imperative. Campus-wide communication should be fluid so customers feel that they are in a credible partnership.

Are you staggering shifts to keep staff from gathering in shops at start and end of shifts?

APPA recommends that this practice be implemented ASAP if it is not already in place.


Is blended learning being considered post COVID-19 in universities?

There are many options being explored, but recently there has been more thought to making sure that we are setting up the physical environment for both synchronous and asynchronous learning, giving us multiple options depending on what we see happening. Some institutions already offer many courses online. It may be that the class frequencies are rethought (e.g., two classes a week online, and one in person) or perhaps there will be extended hours, or the use of Saturdays for specialty classes or testing. Also, accommodations for special testing or one-on-one testing time had been increasing, so we may see a reduction on face-to-face testing, and more of that being done online with appropriate proctoring. In addition, more institutions are taking the time now to plan for and work with instructional course designers to further enhance student learning outcomes.

What technologies are being used for hand-written testing, such as math problems or chemistry formula that need to show work, while on-line learning?

One such technology mentioned by our panelists that is in use is Gradescope which allows for handwritten formulas, etc.

If distance learning continues, will colleges move to creating additional instructional technology spaces, such as booths? And will there be moves to digitize all lessons (forcing some faculty into the 21st century)?

APPA is learning that both student and faculty are adjusting to learning and teaching remotely, using either the university’s already established e-learning programs, or using others like Zoom.  However, since enrollment is still an unknown (for the many reasons addressed already), it remains difficult for an institution to determine the best instructional modalities. In any case, most institutions are working hard to improve their course designs to ensure and enhance student learning outcomes, not matter the modality.

Have any of these schools decided yet how they will be opening the fall? Remote 100%, normal fall classroom offerings or a combination of the two?

APPA suggests referring to the Chronicle of Higher Education who is tracking this information in real-time.

Recent White House guidelines mentioned opening summer camps. Any change in decisions around summer day camps on campus vs residential camps?

APPA members have shared that this is still a very fluid situation.  At this time, most early summer programs have been cancelled.  However, as has been previously shared, based on CDC guidelines, this decision could change.

Are you planning on no “in person” classes or no major events until fall semester? What about commencement?

At this time, APPA is hearing that our community is moving to no “in-person” classes until the fall. We must remember to follow state required guidelines while planning for this to be the case, and hoping for the best.

Have you seen a total closing, or partial closing, of campus and campus buildings? If so, how are you handling research and faculty reactions? Should they still have total campus access?

APPA recommends closing as much as possible to achieve 5% occupancy.  We are hearing from members that faculty/researchers must request access to their room with paperwork forms, ensuring they are practicing Contact Tracing.

How far is Public Safety going with campus closure?

All the way, directed by senior leadership.

Students, Student Housing and Informal Spaces

Are campuses moving toward all single-occupancy style dorm rooms? Would this be a permanent change, or will there be a return to density (i.e., roommates) in the future?

APPA is hearing that double rooms that are small will be converted to singles, which will affect both student life and campus capacity. Flexibility and creativity will be important, whether it’s to partner with neighboring apartment complexes, local hotels, or setting aside blocks of rooms in the university hotel.

Normally, an undergrad only spends about 15 hours/week in a classroom.  How are campuses adapting the rest of the campus to be leveraged for informal learning spaces and “campus as a lab” opportunities for curricular integration?

Given the interaction between the students that is needed to perform teamwork exercises in a face-to-face environment, it remains a concern when it comes to social distancing and face mask requirements. This will need to be addressed in a totally different manner.  Certainly, the trend over the past dozen years emphasized those informal learning spaces, nooks and crannies throughout the campus to allow students to gather and work on projects and discuss assignments.  These affected how libraries, student union lobbies, and hallways and entryways were used.  However, APPA has learned that campuses are continuing to look at turning those types of informal learning locations (libraries, study halls, labs) into spaces that can be more easily monitored and managed with social/physical distancing measures established (at least for the fall). Frankly, our panelists recognized how important these informal spaces are to the sharing of ideas between students and faculty; hence, campus matters.

How will reduced classroom occupancy impact plans for overall GSF reductions, and what are campus leaders planning for occupancy in residence halls?  Specifically, will we need to house only 1 student per double room?  What is the early thinking on revenue impacts?

We recommend visiting our strategic alliance partner, ACUHO-I  for the latest updates on this area of inquiry. However, we are hearing that some institutions are making the move to one student per room and thereby reducing their housing capacity accordingly.  This has not been considered the norm to date.  This would clearly have a significant impact on revenue for the short term and until an effective vaccine is available.  

Regarding social distancing, what is the plan for residential space? What does the freshman resident hall look like in the future?

Visit our strategic alliance partner, ACUHO-I  for the latest updates on this area of inquiry.

What are current plans on how utilization of campus student residences might be implemented?

Visit our strategic alliance partner, ACUHO-I  for much more detail and the latest updates on this area of inquiry.

For setting up student suites, is the idea to have one student per room with those students sharing the bathroom?

When students have been moved, they have been provided their own apartment which includes their own bathroom whenever possible. To keep contact to a minimum, the rooms have been stocked with adequate cleaning supplies and instructions so that the students could maintain/ clean their own space and weekly bathroom cleaning by staff have been cancelled.

Have your campuses moved students in with student staff, or custodial staff, when consolidating residence halls? Also, did your institutions pay for the packing and shipping of belongings for students not to return to campus?

APPA members have shared that many institutions are still dealing with housing consolidations. These types of housing arrangements, whether utilizing student staff, or custodial staff, should be considered very carefully considering safety, social/physical distancing needs, and potential isolation of a few students, etc. In many cases students were not able nor allowed to return to campus to retrieve their belongings after spring break.  Therefore, institutions are handling this situation in many different way (e.g., an institution’s practices and regulations, scope and cost, and student privacy concerns. 

With so many student belongings left behind in dorm rooms, is the plan for university staff to pack all those rooms and ship the contents back to students? Or, will students be allowed back in an orderly fashion to pack their own belongings?

APPA members are sharing that institutions are handling this in different ways based on their circumstances and student population.   Washington University in St. Louis, as one example, used 100 staff volunteers to enter student rooms during spring break in March, and pack and ship all possessions back to the students’ homes so they would not need to return to campus.

How are campuses planning to deal with returning spring break students? Lots of college students went to Florida and completely ignored social distancing.

APPA is hearing that students are returning on a scheduled basis to collect their belongings for a full move-out. Buildings are then fully cleaned and closed down, allowing for a complete vacancy, or striving for 5% closure. This also ensures adequate separation of space for the remaining students.

What department is identifying how many students are still on campus? And how are they doing this? How are you handling the return of students?

APPA recommends working with the Vice President of Student Services and the leadership team on campus. Implement a request form to allow for tracing/tracking.

For students remaining on campus, are they being moved into a single building, or left in their original rooms?  How do you accommodate them, including food, health, and janitorial services?  Are they required to self-quarantine? What about move out?

APPA is hearing students are being moved out on a scheduled basis. Buildings are then fully cleaned and closed down, allowing for a complete vacancy, or striving for 5% closure. Ensure also adequate separation of space for the remaining students.

Financial Impacts/Future Planning/Insurance

Will the rapid move to online instruction/learning change the growth of our universities to the point where we don’t need more spaces, thereby saving on utilities and other expenses?

What this pandemic is making clear is that growth for growth’s sake is not always representative of improvement on a campus. Merely adding more space does not necessarily mean a campus is getting better. It might be preferable to think of campus (or institutional) development instead of growth, and develop existing space for greater efficiency, which is also often cheaper than trying to build new space. 

Space is expensive.  It’s expensive to build, and even though interest rates have been low, and capital has been available, every square foot of space has an ongoing expense. We have to remember that the most environmentally sustainable gross square foot we will ever own is the one we never build.  Therefore, if we can use our space more effectively—whether it’s with online technology or other methods of instruction and research—doing so will be extremely helpful to educational institutions moving forward.

Additionally, creatively repurposing space to conduct operations in a socially distant way has become very important in our institutions. Instead of new buildings, we should be repurposing as much as possible and determining how to get more value from the investments we’ve already made.

While campus public health must be paramount, the financial impact to the university has to be a consideration as well. How impactful are financial issues in deciding the fall semester scenario?

The balance of finances and safety is paramount to the successful reopening of our institutions this fall. Each institution is grappling with the impacts of operational budget, endowments, and state funding cuts.  As this remains a very fluid situation, APPA is not in a position to further assess the financial impact on an institution-by-institution basis. 

Should we focus resource investments on the back end (protecting institutions), or put greater emphasis on advocating for greater government intervention on the front end to get ahead of potential pandemics? Or is it a blend of both?

Naturally a blend is best, but many institutions are taking it on themselves in order to protect their communities. The question around herd immunity is an ongoing debate, since we know the vaccine will not be available in the near term. However, more research on herd immunity (and what it does or does not offer at the moment) is needed, because there is much we don’t know about this particular novel coronavirus.

Will colleges formally reduce enrollment targets in consideration of lessened occupancies/capacities in classrooms?

At this time, the enrollment management community has no solid answers to this question. However, our panelist did emphasize that most institutions’ income base are tuition-driven so the thought of reducing enrollment targets is not expected.  However, we should state that due to the fluidity of the situation there is no formula basis for doing so, so discussions with senior leadership would be advised.

How will the increased competition for students among colleges and universities, versus the need for revenue, lower academic standards?

There are a number of factors that are potentially calling into question the standards that would normally be required for admissions, which make it difficult to predict who is going to be admitted, how students will perform with new measures in place, and how colleges and universities are going to respond to this new normal. Not knowing how many applicants there will be also plays into the many unknown factors that will determine how individual institutions fare in these uncertain times.

Considering cost and revenue, as well as the amount of work involved in reconfiguring existing spaces, is it even worth doing the traditional in-classroom instruction, or do institutions continue with the online instruction where possible?

Because the situation is so fluid with respect to students returning to campus/ class, APPA is hearing that for the short term, campuses are instituting less costly measures to accommodate social distancing. For example, reconfiguring spaces instead of permanently removing seating, as this kind of investment may be premature due to how fast requirements are changing. Other short-term measures could include signage, walkway decals, door openers and clear partitions, hand sanitizers, and wipes.

How many universities in the country will be closed in the Fall of 2020?

APPA knows of several institutions that have announced fall reopening, and that most are waiting until May or June to announce their plans. Instead, many are offering online classes for the fall, either completely or in a hybrid format.  The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking fall opening decisions; find their reporting here:

How do you plan for self-guided tours of the campus that are safe and mitigate as much risk as possible? How do you train campus police and maintenance staff, who may be the only people on campus, to assist prospective families they come into contact with?

This question should be used as a Tabletop Exercise to brainstorm new innovative approaches to these needs.  Collaboration with Admissions, Police, and EH&S departments is a must.

Given the fact that a number of campuses would like to open in the fall, what are your thoughts on campus preparation, and what steps should be taken for campus readiness in the fall? 

There is no model for this, but there are many factors that point to the probability that a number of institutions may not be able to open in the fall. For example, institutions that have opened their residence halls to first responders have been lauded for their efforts by the community, but may now have parents thinking their children can’t live in those same spaces due to them being fully exposed to the virus and shared central HVAC system. There are shared common areas and bathrooms that will need to be maintained at lesser capacity levels given social distancing which prompt new physical configurations resulting in possibly half the funding.

Has the COVID-19 crisis stalled sustainability initiatives or accelerated them?

APPA found in this past Town Hall (4/24/2020) that for students, sustainability is still high on their priority list. In fact, this crisis has had the unintended consequence of multiple calls to action for less energy consumption and more conservation efforts. Students are looking to be a part of the solution by being more health-conscious and aware. And some of the legislation being passed will focus on educating and training students, so this will expand further. 

Did you engage consultants to help you frame your changes, and if so, how did you justify the cost and were you able to get funding to have this done?

APPA has learned that it really depends on the institution.  We do know that many larger have their own internal expertise to draw from, with many departments and staff willing to weigh-in and be involved in establishing their internal policies and procedures. However, consultants are indeed a good resource to take advantage.

Will this crisis make it so custodians stop being the “easy” attrition means for budget savings?

APPA is hearing that custodians will not be an easy attrition group due to the need for disinfecting regimens and the level of sanitizing common areas that the community has come to expect. Institutions need to have a clearly documented service level for custodians as a reference point and use with your campus community.

Have the universities (Iowa and Texas) refunded room and board funds to students?

APPA’s members are sharing strategies such as providing credits to the fall or future semester classes, while others have also issued partial refunds for the winter semester that was cut short. Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, for instance, is refunding room and board for the half semester remaining this academic year.

Due to COVID-19, Moody’s just downgraded the higher education market sector’s outlook from “stable” to “negative.” Is it possible that the stimulus request of $47 billon will help with this issue?

At this point, there’s a lot of speculation and unknowns on this front. It’s important to emphasize that the $47 billion figure is still just a request. The existing $14 billion funding passed by Congress will be disbursed using a formula developed by the Department of Education. Each institution’s allocation has been posted on the ACE website. It is important for institutions to think broadly and creatively.  These stimulus funds are just one revenue source and will surely not cover the depth and breadth of the institution’s revenue shortfalls. The more we prepare now, the better position we will be in to do the best we can for all employees and the organizations that we support.

Are you beginning discussions on the potential financial impact of this crisis and reactions to them, including furloughs, layoffs, operating and capital budget reductions? If so, can you share the parameters you are modeling?

APPA has heard that such discussions are underway.  As a community we should be modeling a worst case scenario with regard to staff reductions.

Estimated projections of the length of time for the nationwide shutdown vary anywhere from 2-4 weeks to 6-12 months — a very broad range. That said, what scenario are you currently basing your planning on? Are there new norms?

Unknown, still to be determined. But it is certain that our community is assessing daily how revisions to emergency or incident planning protocols will be impacted.

What are future plans for minimizing touch points?  Hand dryers instead of paper towels?  Sensor faucets and flush valves? 

APPA is seeing this as an emerging practice, and that we are all learning as we move forward.

Space/Building Use

Are you considering performing major life-cycle renovation projects for some of your older/existing buildings, such as one-way corridors with separate entrances, and significant modification of seating layouts, healthcare-grade vs. standard commercial-grade HVAC systems, etc.?

At this time, APPA is hearing that signage for hallways and entrances are being used, as well as creative marking of seating in classrooms, study and lecture halls. Where possible, extra seating is being removed and stored to maintain social distancing. 

As we discuss physical changes to the campus, is it believed that these will be permanent changes? The built environment has been thoughtfully designed over a long history of how to best support students. Do we think that changes required for COVID-19 will permanently change our campuses and the student experience? Or if this is a period of transition that we need to build and respond to with less fixed solutions?

At this time, we must accept that some changes will need to be made in order to meet the current, short-term needs and demands of ensuring the health and safety of students. However, those changes must not undo the historical integrity of the student experience. Most institutions will make de-densification decisions with temporary fixes rather than making permanent changes since so much with respect to this pandemic still remain fluid.

Here are some items that may be of use for our members in the interim:

How can campuses leverage digital environments to allow for the sharing of ideas if they cannot be in the same physical place at the same time?

The transformation of campus space to accommodate the younger “digital native” was already underway before the pandemic.  Most returning students, and certainly future students, should be able to adjust to the new digital environments that will be combined with the physical campus environment that most students still want to experience.

Normally, an undergrad only spends about 15 hours/week in a classroom.  How are campuses adapting the rest of the campus to be leveraged for informal learning spaces and “campus as a lab” opportunities for curricular integration?

Given the interaction between the students that is needed to perform teamwork exercises in a face-to-face environment, it remains a concern when it comes to social distancing and face mask requirements. This will need to be addressed in a totally different manner.  Certainly, the trend over the past dozen years emphasized those informal learning spaces, nooks and crannies throughout the campus to allow students to gather and work on projects and discuss assignments.  These affected how libraries, student union lobbies, and hallways and entryways were used.  However, APPA has learned that campuses are continuing to look at turning those types of informal learning locations (libraries, study halls, labs) into spaces that can be more easily monitored and managed with social/physical distancing measures established (at least for the fall). Frankly, our panelists recognized how important these informal spaces are to the sharing of ideas between students and faculty; hence, campus matters.

How can we design testing centers to abide by both social/physical distancing and national testing requirements?

Testing centers are constantly updating their policies and practices, so it’s too early to say with any degree of certainty what the test centers post COVID will look like.  For the time being, some are rescheduling their exams to include remote proctoring, while others are by appointment only or closing down until further notice. One example is Pearson VUE.

Where we reduce seating do you recommend removing extra seats and placing into storage or leaving them in the room and have the professor or host mandate occupancy limits?

This remains fluid, so the option of storing or leaving seats in the classroom so professors or hosts can identify the requirements is still being reviewed and considered. The frequency of cleaning classrooms may also affect this decision.

Are current large projects in design moving forward for Penn State University? Sounds like it has paused at Occidental College.

As we transition moving forward with COVID in mind, PSU is reassessing its capital plan to align with the overall funding available. Different components will be part of the equation that we can present both to the trustees and to senior leadership in order of priority. Additionally, we will need to assess the suitability component as well as the space available (i.e., is it the right space to be assessing for facility renewal?). Finally, there’s the resiliency component—is the space suitable for what we want going forward? Because there are many unknowns in our future, and our response can’t be to automatically shut down our campus. 

Are institutions being asked to host drive-through testing in their parking lots to administer non-approved tests.  If so, are they charging a fee to do so?

APPA has learned that the following institutions are participating in this function: Georgia Tech, Michigan State University, and several California State University schools. However, we are not aware of this as a fee-based service.   

Is there student housing being used to house medical or first responder personnel, or that are being converted to field hospitals?

H2HD—hotel (or housing) to healthcare—has been introduced by a number of institutions: Boise State University, George Washington University, Grand Valley State University, and University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Nebraska, Lincoln among them. Some institutions are looking at apartment-style student housing that might be used by healthcare workers or first responders should the need arise. The key is to plan ahead so that there is flexibility, especially during peak periods of the outbreak. In some instances, the impact on students, and potential costs incurred, would need to be part of the assessment.

Are U.S. Army COE specs being prepared for space needs and HVAC requirements in an early effort to create emergency spaces using campus and hotel facilities?  Is so, how?

The Army Corps of Engineers website includes information for institutions offering space to create alternate care facilities, medical units, or temporary medical enclosures, as well as links to other related organizations.

Are you receiving good information from your leadership as to what spaces are to be occupied?

APPA recognizes that this is the decision of a senior leadership team. Yet is it crucial that FM either have a seat at the table, or a direct communication link to the team, in order to ensure that FM stake holder’s needs are being met.

We have occupied residence halls (~200 beds being used out of 950 beds). We have some students in each of 12 residence halls. How do we encourage residence administration to consolidate students into just a few buildings?

APPA recommends full cleaning, closing down the building and vacating while transitioning into one central space. We further suggest implementing “Contact Tracing” as well as the REDUCE USE concept with a designated entrance for both entrance and exit purposes. Ensure also adequate separation of space for the remaining students.

Campus Research

Any idea if the CDC has given guidelines related to vivariums, animal care, etc.?

While APPA is seeing little or no guidance from the CDC, here is a listing of a few member institutions with sample guidelines: Texas A&M; Virginia Tech; and Stony Brook University.

Construction / Working with Contractors

Are any institutions delaying new capital construction projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic?  If so, what type of building/facility will it be, and what is the construction budget? 

Although varying by institution, funding, and size, the goal has been to build only what is needed and modernizing classrooms to fit present or expected needs and capacity. With this new dimension of COVID-19, institutions are looking at reducing requirements and rethinking space.  Also, with online learning, there may be opportunities to do things differently, such as alternate semesters for live-in residents.  Finally, institutions are undergoing careful prioritization reviews to determine which capital projects should remain to ensure long term financial viability and cash liquidity throughout this slow-moving pandemic.

Are any of you partnering with trusted HVAC contractors as backup for building rounds should your staff become ill?

APPA recommends communicating with all of your contractors and understand their guidelines for working with clients.  Additionally, any institutional guidelines in place need to be adhered to as well.

Because of this crisis, some subcontractors and unions don’t want to work, causing projects to get delayed. How will this be treated in terms of contractual obligations. Will this be treated as Force Majeure?

As these are unprecedented times, APPA recommends conversation with general counsel about your specific situation and possible solutions before engaging in conversations with your general contractors and/or subcontractors and finalizing your plans.

Please send your questions, comments, and emerging practices to [email protected].