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Written by Michelle Sheridan Mar 19, 2021

COVID-19: Keeping Colleges Safe

The outbreak of Covid-19 significantly disrupted colleges and universities throughout the country. Instributions canceled in-person classes and moved to remote instruction, and every aspect of college life was threatened - from admissions to college life to athletics. Higher education institutions’ financial future has also been threatened by unexpected costs and potential reductions in revenue. 

The pandemic continues to provide challenges as higher education institutions plan for the return of in-person classes. Transmission risk is present not only on campuses but also throughout their surrounding communities. Although the risk of severe reactions to COVID-19 is relatively low in young adults without underlying health conditions or co-morbidities, populations such as faculty, staff, and family members or contacts of students could be put at considerably more risk if they become infected. 

The CDC has continued to update operating guidelines for colleges, universities, and higher learning institutions as they operate throughout the pandemic. One of the main focuses, along with setting guiding principles and promoting behaviors that reduce spread, is to maintain healthy environments. 

When maintaining a healthy environment in a college, university, or higher education institute, pay attention to these main areas

Cleaning & Disinfection: 

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, grab bars, hand railings, bathroom stalls, dining hall tables at least daily or between use as much as possible.
  • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Encourage students, faculty, and staff to keep their personal items (e.g., cell phones, other electronics) and individual work and living spaces clean.
  • Encourage students, faculty, and staff to use disinfectant wipes to wipe down shared desks, lab equipment, and other shared objects and surfaces before use.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products including storing products. Use products that meet EPA List N disinfection criteria 
  • Ensure there is adequate ventilation when using cleaning products to prevent students or staff from inhaling toxic fumes.
  • Provide hand sanitizer or hand washing stations near high touch areas and at entrances/exits to buildings.

Shared Objects

  • Discourage sharing of items, especially those that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
  • Use of shared objects (e.g., lab equipment, computer equipment, desks) should be limited when possible or cleaned between use with safe cleaning methods.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible (e.g., assigning each student their own art supplies, lab equipment, computers) or limit the use of supplies and equipment by one group of students at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
  • Avoid sharing electronic devices, books, pens, and other learning aids.


  • Consider ventilation system upgrades or improvements and other steps to increase clean air delivery and dilute potential contaminants in campus buildings. 

Water Systems

  • Drinking fountains should be cleaned and sanitized, but encourage staff and students to bring their own water to minimize water fountains’ use and touch.

Physical Barriers and Guides

  • Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., cash registers).
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times.

Food Service

  • If communal dining halls or cafeterias will be used, ensure that students remain 6 feet apart by placing visual cues in food service lines and tables. Clean and disinfect tables between use.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch or foot-pedal disposal containers for use by faculty, staff, and students.
  • If possible, install touchless payment methods (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). Provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol near places where people pay so that they can use it right after handling money, cards, or keypads.

Action Unlimited is here to help you with all of your re-opening needs. Reach out to us today to speak with our team of experts and learn how we can support you. 

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