FAQs for COVID-19 Health and Safety

Updated July 19, 2020

CLEANING AND DISINFECTION

What cleaning protocols are in place for offices, classrooms, and other campus spaces?

Building Services custodians, on a daily basis, clean and disinfect classrooms, lobbies, atriums and high-contact public surfaces such as light switches, handrails, elevator buttons and doorknobs.

How often are bathrooms cleaned?

Building Services custodians clean all bathrooms across campus at least once per day. Bathrooms in dormitory living areas, other than private bathrooms only accessible through student rooms or suites, are cleaned by Building Services custodians at least twice per day. 

What do Building Services custodians clean and what is my department or I expected to clean?

Building Services custodians clean and disinfect restrooms and high-contact surfaces in public spaces. Individuals should clean and disinfect frequently touched items in their own work area on a daily basis, including computer and peripherals, doorknobs and handles, light switches, phones, desks, tools and other shared equipment.

In the case of shared departmental spaces such as break rooms, users must take responsibility for wiping down surfaces and equipment, including tabletops, refrigerator and microwave door handles, coffee makers, and photo copier touch panels.

Where do I get cleaning supplies?

If you need disinfectant wipes or other cleaning supplies for your work area, request a supply from your supervisor. Supervisors may contact ehs@princeton.edu if assistance is needed to obtain supplies.

What products are effective for disinfection of the COVID-19 virus?

A number of chemical products are anticipated to be effective at inactivating the COVID-19 virus, based upon previous testing of the disinfectant against similar viruses.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the criteria used to assess the effectiveness of disinfectants and maintains a list of products and conditions of use (such as contact time) that are anticipated to be effective against the COVID-19 virus.  These products are found under the EPA List N: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19

Due to interest in this subject, the EPA has recently launched an interactive version of List N to make it easier to search. https://cfpub.epa.gov/giwiz/disinfectants/index.cfm

A number of manufacturers are actively testing their products the verify their product’s effectiveness by directly testing against the COVID-19 virus.  More information will be provided once additional information is available on disinfectants verified against COVID-19.

Is it okay to use disinfectant wipes intended for surfaces  to clean my hands?

Unless clearly indicated in the instructions provided by the manufacturer, most cleaning products (including disinfecting wipes) designed for use on hard surfaces should not be used to sanitize your hands.  These products are often formulated with harsher chemicals than similar sanitizing wipe products intended for use on a person and may result in harm, such skin injury or irritation and serious injury to the eye if remaining residue is accidentally wiped into the eyes.

FACE COVERINGS

Do I have to wear a face covering when on campus? 

Yes. Per University policy, all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times unless alone in a space or when outdoors and able to maintain at least six feet (two meters) of physical distancing. 

See the Face Covering Policy for more information, including additional exceptions. Perhaps add the link to the policy.

My prescription glasses fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

If your glasses are fogging up when you wear a face covering, it is likely that there is too much of a gap around the nose. Here are a few ways to manage this:

  • Wear a face covering that has an adjustable wire at the bridge of the nose. Ensure that the material fits snugly around the nose.
  • Rest your glasses over your face covering to help block the air from escaping, thus preventing fogging. 
  • Use an anti-fogging eye glass/safety glass cleaning wipe.  In addition to helping to remove smudges on your glasses, these wipes deposit a thin film that helps to prevent fogging.  If you do not have anti-fogging wipes, try baby shampoo*, glycerine soap*, dishwashing detergent*, or a small amount of toothpaste* on a soft cloth to clean your glasses. Shake off the excess and let them air dry. This technique leaves a thin film that reduces surface tension that builds up from your breath, causing fogging.

* If one of the alternatives to anti-fogging wipes are used, avoid the use of fragranced materials and materials claiming superlative cleaning properties (grease cutting, whitening, etc) as these may contain additives that can be irritating or harmful to your eyes and skin. 

I need to wear safety glasses and they fog up when I wear a face covering. What can I do?

By forming a tight seal across the nose and under your eyes, Safety goggles are far less likely to fog up than safety glasses. Consider wearing goggles instead. Alternatively, follow the guidance above for prescription glasses. 

I find it difficult to breathe or very uncomfortable to wear a face covering. May I opt not to wear one on campus?

If you are not able to wear a face covering for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the face covering without assistance, you can seek an accommodation to be exempt from wearing one. See the  Policy on Disability and Accessibility for more information. If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you have the option of wearing a face shield instead. Contact EHS for more information. 

I cannot wear a face covering because of a medical condition. What should I do?

If you are not able to wear a face covering for medical reasons, such as difficulty breathing or inability to place or remove the face covering without assistance, you can seek an accommodation to be exempt from wearing one. See the  Policy on Disability and Accessibility for more information. If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you have the option of wearing a face shield instead. Contact EHS for more information. 

My work causes my face covering to get dirty or wet quickly.

If your work causes your face covering to get very sweaty, dirty, or wet, consider these options:

  • Wear a lightweight face shield over your face covering to protect it from dirt, splashes, and other materials.
  • Change your face covering often during the work and wash them all at the end of the day.
  • Use two layers of face coverings and replace the outer one as needed.
  • As a last resort, use disposable masks and change them as needed.

Is a disposable mask safer than a cloth face covering?

No. In most cases, the disposable masks intended to be used as a face covering for infectious disease prevention are as effective or less effective than a cloth face covering. A cloth face covering that has multiple layers of tightly woven fabric is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends.

Regarding cleanliness of the mask, safety depends on cleaning. Think of a paper plate compared to a reusable plate. The paper plate is effective for a while, but usually needs to be replaced after a single use. A ceramic plate is useful as long as you are cleaning it after use.

Do  I need to wear a face covering when walking around campus during times when the campus or campus walkways are crowded, such as during class change?

While face coverings are not required outdoors if social distancing is possible, it is advisable to wear one when the areas where you are walking are crowded.

I prefer disposable face coverings. Why shouldn’t I use them regularly?

Besides the sustainability implications, disposable face coverings are in short supply in several areas of the country. As our nation experiences rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations, disposable masks need to be preserved for healthcare and emergency response workers who rely on them.

May I wear a face shield instead of a cloth face covering?

No. At this time, the definition of face covering does not include face shields. You can wear a face shield over your face covering for added protection. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend use of face shields in place of cloth or disposable face coverings, mostly because there is not enough evidence that the face shield alone prevents droplets from a cough, sneeze, speaking loudly, etc. from spreading outside the face shield.

 

HAND WASHING AN HAND SANITIZERS

What is the effective way to wash my hands?

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use a paper towel to dry.

  1. Have a paper towel ready.
  2. Turn on the tap. Use warm or tepid water.
  3. Wet your hands.
  4. Apply soap.
  5. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, washing all surfaces of your hands.
  6. Rinse well.
  7. Use a paper towel to turn off the tap.
  8. Dry your hands. 
  9. Use a paper towel to open the door and turn off the lights.

What is the effective way to use hand sanitizer?

The manufacturer will provide instructions on the container describing the recommended use of the hand sanitizer in order to achieve the same effects that the product was originally tested.  Most hand sanitizers require thoroughly wetting the surface of your hands with the hand sanitizer as well as recommending to help distribute the sanitizer by rubbing/kneading your hands together.  Some products will indicate the need to allow the hand sanitizer to dry, whereas others will indicate that is it acceptable to wipe off excess after waiting an indicated period of time.

Most hand sanitizers are intended only for external use and limited for use on the hands.  Use of hand sanitizers on other areas of skin may result in irritation or injury.  Many hand sanitizers contain components that will be toxic or cause injury if taken internally.

Which is better - hand sanitizer or washing with soap and water?

The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not available, CDC recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol.

Is it okay to use an electronic hand dryer?

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to include the use of warm air dryers  as a means for drying hands after washing them. There have been recent studies that suggest the potential for aerosols and fine droplets to be generated during hand drying using an electronic/warm air dryer; however, the risk of this process contributing to the spread of COVID-19 virus is minimal when this process follows an effective hand cleaning. 


Are all hand sanitizers the same? If not, which are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol are most effective aganst COVID-19. Hand sanitizers with the active ingredient of benzalkonium chloride are not as effective. Those with any other material listed as the active ingredient are not recommended by the CDC or the FDA for COVID-19.

Is it okay to clean my hands with  disinfectant wipes intended for surfaces?

Unless clearly indicated in the instructions provided by the manufacturer, most cleaning products (including disinfecting wipes) designed for use on hard surfaces should not be used to sanitize your hands.  These products are often formulated with harsher chemicals than similar sanitizing wipe products intended for use on a person and may result in harm, such skin injury or irritation and serious injury to the eye if remaining residue is accidentally wiped into the eyes.

 

RESUMPTION OF OPERATIONS PROCESSES

I want to use my on-campus work space or office, what do I need to do?

If you have been conducting your work remotely, you must continue to work remotely. If you have a need to be on campus for work, you need approval from your supervisor, and your department needs to have been approved to resume operations via the Phased Resumption of Operations process.

You will also need to complete the mandatory training:

What is the process for resuming on-campus operations in my department this summer (before the end of August)?

Science and Engineering departments and laboratories must complete the Phased Resumption of On Campus Research process.  All other departments and offices must complete the Summer Phased Resumption of On-Campus Operations process. 

What is the process for resuming on-campus operations in my department in the fall (end of August)?

This process is on hold until late July, after space allocation is complete for research, teaching, and on-campus housing. Laboratory research continues to follow the Phased Resumption of On Campus Research process. 

I am a researcher who wants to resume work in my laboratory. What do I need to do before I access my laboratory?

First, you need to ensure that the Dean for Research has approved your laboratory to resume research. Check with your Principal Investigator. If your laboratory has been approved:

 

TRAINING

How do I access the training that is required for being on campus this summer and fall?

First, determine which online course you need to complete:

  • Safe Practices for the Resumption of Research: Complete this course if you conduct work in a research lab on campus. 
  • Safe Practices for the Resumption of On-Campus Operations: Complete this course if you need to work or study on campus and you are not conducting research.

Both online courses are available in the Employee Learning Center (which is intended for students, faculty, and staff).

Two ways to connect:

  • Most direct: Go to the EHS eLearning page
    • Scroll down to COVID-19 Awareness
    • Choose the appropriate course.
  • If the link does not work, go to http://putrain.learn.com 
    • On the top navigation bar, choose At Your Desk
    • Choose eLearning
    • Choose Environmental Health and Safety
    • Scroll down to COVID-19 Awareness
    • Choose the appropriate course.

How do I know which of the two online training courses to take?

Laboratory researchers (faculty, staff, graduate students): Safe Practices for Resumption of Research. Everyone else (faculty, staff, students): Safe Practices for Resumption of On-Campus Operations.

I am a researcher. If I complete the Safe Practices for Resumption of Research course, do I also have to complete the Safe Practices for Resumption of On-Campus Operations course, too?

No. Everything that is in the Safe Practices for Resumption of On-Campus Operations is also in the course for researchers.

I am a researcher. If I completed the Safe Practices for Resumption of On-Campus Operations course, do I need to complete the Safe Practices for Resumption of Research course, too?

Yes. Only the Safe Practices for the Resumption of Research course is required for you. The other course does not count toward the training requirement for researchers.

 

VEHICLE USE

Is it safe to share a vehicle?

As much as possible, individuals should ride alone in vehicles, including cars, trucks,  If you must share a vehicle with another person:

  • Both occupants must wear face coverings.
  • Occupants should sit as far away from each other as possible. If there are two rows of seating, the passenger should sit in the back passenger seat. 
  • Minimize time in the vehicle.
  • Keep windows open, as possible.

Whether alone or with another passenger, always clean the vehicle with an approved disinfectant before other people use the vehicle and at the end of the shift.

Do I need to wear a face covering if I am alone in the vehicle?

No, you do not need to wear a face covering if you are alone in a space, including a vehicle.

 

VENTILATION

What has the University done to improve building ventilation systems in light of the risk of exposure to COVID-19?

The University has taken a number of steps, including:. 

  • Servicing HVAC systems in buildings that have not been occupied to ensure that they are working properly and efficiently.
  • As possible, increasing the amount of outside air and decreasing the amount of recirculating air in buildings. 
  • Where possible, replacing air filters with highly efficient filters, such as MERV-13 filters.
  • Reducing or disabling occupancy controls that decrease ventilation rates when the space is unoccupied.

What can I do to improve ventilation in my building?

  • If your space has operable windows and opening them will not disrupt air conditioning or heating, open windows while occupying the space. Do not leave windows open and unlocked when the building is unoccupied. 
  • Leave on exhaust fans in restrooms if they are operated by a switch.
  • Do not bring your own air filtration units. If you believe you need to bring in such a unit, please contact EHS for consultation. EHS will work with Facilities and the University Fire Marshal, as needed.

I’ve heard that ventilation systems have resulted in the spread of COVID-19. Is this true?
 
Some studies have been published that show that people who have shared a space with a person who tested positive for COVID-19  have also become infected. In these studies, the spaces were congested, occupants were not practicing social distancing and it is not known if they were wearing face coverings. Transmission through large droplets or surface contamination could also account for the spread of the virus. Our team is monitoring studies of this nature so that we can update our guidance if necessary.
 
Hasn’t the World Health Organization stated that the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread via the air?

The WHO has cited the results of a few studies that suggest the possibility of both aerosol and droplet transmission during activities such as dining out, fitness classes and choir practice. However, the detailed investigations of these clusters suggest that droplet and surface contamination could also explain human-to-human transmission within these clusters. Further, the close contact environments of these clusters may have facilitated transmission from a small number of cases to many other people (e.g., superspreading event), especially if hand hygiene was not performed and masks were not used when physical distancing was not maintained.

You can find details about the WHO’s guidance on transmission of the virus on their website.
 
Some of the air in my building is recirculated. If a co-worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, will I need to quarantine due to the recirculated air?

NO. Decisions about the need to quarantine a staff member or student are made by UHS physicians and nurses and are based primarily upon your physical distance from the ill person. You may be told to quarantine only if you were closer than 6 feet for longer than 10 minutes with the ill person. 
 
I work in a small office and I am concerned because there is no mechanical ventilation system.

Some older buildings are equipped with heating and cooling devices but do not receive fresh air via a mechanical ventilation system. In these type of spaces, it is important to maintain social distance and allow at least 100 ft2 per person, wear face coverings if you are not alone and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. If windows are available, open them unless opening the windows affects your seasonal allergies. If the unventilated space is used for assemblies of staff or students, EHS may make recommendations on how to safely use the space.

OTHER QUESTIONS

If your question is not listed on this document, please contact EHS at ehs@princeton.edu or 609-258-5294.