The University of Georgia Transportation and Parking Services team has a 17-page checklist of what they are doing to prepare buses and parking services for the return of students in August. And that checklist represents only a portion of what is being done around campus to ready dorms, dining halls and other facilities to ensure a clean and safe environment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Don Walter, the unit’s director, has been working with his team for months on new bus schedules, sanitation procedures, social distancing protocols and touch-free solutions where applicable.
Changing guidelines and new information about the coronavirus create an even more challenging task, but Walter said his team is ready to pivot and change protocols if necessary.
“We’re thinking of everything and we are getting guidance from a lot of government experts. But we know we have to be flexible and adjust as things change weekly,” said Walter. “I am extremely confident that we are going to handle this well.”
In addition to new sanitation procedures including new misting machines that will be used each night, protective barriers are being installed for bus drivers and buses will allow fewer riders to facilitate social distancing. Another key component of the plan is shorter bus routes that will get buses through more quickly, and having one driver use only one bus every day, rather than switching drivers.
Transportation Services collects data on how many people ride the buses and when and where they use them the most. This data was paired with a survey conducted by the Student Government Association to create the most efficient routes so that fewer passengers on each bus won’t mean long wait times. “The overall goal is to get everyone where they need to go in a timely fashion,” said Jeff Arthur, operations manager. “We haven’t had a major change like this in a long time and it’s good for our efficiency.”
Paratransit will only allow one passenger at a time and will have the same robust sanitizing procedures as the buses.
Parking attendants in campus lots will also wear masks when interacting with customers and transactions will be cashless to ensure less contact. Pay meters will still be there for one-time and daily visitors, but they will get frequent routine wipe downs as will stairwell handles and elevator buttons.
“We also want to really promote walking and biking on campus,” Walter said. “Bulldog Bike Share is available on campus right now with 22 hubs.” There are 100 bikes total and an app can be used to check one out.
The residence halls have also been implementing several important changes in preparation for students. The communal bathrooms, for example, will be cleaned three times daily instead of once and will include the use of disinfectant fogs. For private bathrooms in suites, students will be given cleaning materials to clean them on their own rather than having staff enter and clean as they previously did.
Access pin pads for getting into the building will now scan IDs to eliminate touching the pin pad. Some furniture is being removed from group gathering spaces to create more space for social distancing, and vinyl stickers will be placed on floors to show the proper 6-foot distance.
Plexiglass barriers are being installed at the front desk for protection when people come to check out a key. Floor meetings will take place virtually rather than in person, and no guests will be allowed in rooms.
“There are a lot of unknowns at this point but we’re strategizing cleaning, programming and distancing approaches, while still offering the community and support that are a core part of our mission,” said Linda Kasper, executive director of University Housing. “Overall, we’re moving forward with every intention of giving students the same positive experience they have come to expect from living on campus.”
Dining has been preparing for months to ensure students feel comfortable and safe when they return to campus. Retail dining, such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A in Tate, have eliminated dine-in options and all orders will be packaged in to-go containers.
The dining halls are a bit trickier to manage. Bryan Varin, executive director of dining services and interim associate director of auxiliary services, said there will be a to-go option in the dining halls and a reservation system UGA is currently developing with Grubhub that will allow for social distancing.
In between each reservation block time will be allotted to fully disinfect and sanitize seating areas for the next block of reservations. “Seating will be more spaced out. There will be no tables of more than four people. We believe we can create a reservation system that people are comfortable with and that we can safely manage,” said Varin. “It’s going to be challenging, but we’ve always been committed to food safety and sanitation. It’s at the forefront of what we do. We’ll continue to follow all guidelines from the CDC to provide a safe, welcoming environment for the people who choose to come in and dine with us.”
Ralph Johnson, associate vice president for the Facilities Management Division, is ensuring the buildings and outside spaces across campus are ready to receive students in August.
The FMD staff has been trained how to clean and disinfect touch services on a regular basis and how to react to areas if a person has tested positive. The chemicals used by FMD are Green Seal certified, but they are proven to kill the coronavirus and meet the requirements of the CDC and EPA.
Johnson said there are two primary cleaners and the one that is stronger and has a kill rating for the virus of one minute will be used in any areas where there are known positives reported. The division has also purchased electrostatic foggers that can envelop an area.
On the operational maintenance side, Johnson said the team is making sure air handling equipment is working correctly and that all filters are changed regularly and fit well. And because industry regulators are encouraging higher air flow rather than more filters, FMD is working to achieve that in buildings as well.
“The information is changing constantly and we are adapting and working with that new information as it becomes available. All of the staff on campus are working very hard to be prepared and to receive the students and adapt to whatever new information becomes available,” said Johnson.