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EH&S COVID-19 FAQs

Where can I find Coronavirus updates for the UCM community?

UCM Emergency Preparedness Website: https://emergency.ucmerced.edu/coronavirus

Campus Ready Website: https://doyourpart.ucmerced.edu/

Merced County Department of Public Health: https://www.co.merced.ca.us/3350/Coronavirus-Disease-2019

Face Coverings: Are Face Coverings Required on Campus?

Yes, according to UC Merced's interim policy on Universal Requirements for Physical Mitigation and Reduction of the Transmission of COVID-19, all campus constituents and non-affliates on university property must wear face coverings, except when located alone in a private office, when eating and physically distanced by at least 6 feet, in the individual’s own campus residence, or when outside and located more than six feet away from any other individual. Click here to read the full interim policy.

Face Coverings: Do Face Covering Help Reduce the Spread of COVID-19?

Wearing cloth face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by people who may not know that they are infected with the virus.  Although they are not surgical masks or N95 respirators, cloth face coverings are easy to find and can be washed and reused. Face coverings combined with other preventative practices, such as frequent handwashing and physical distancing, help slow the spread of infection.

Face Coverings: How Do I Obtain a Face Covering?

UC Merced's Emergency Operations Center distributes face coverings on campus 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the box office in COB1. Students, staff and faculty with a Cat Card can receive up to two face coverings. Similar distribution locations will be opened up as demand and operations on campus expand.

Students, staff and faculty with damaged campus-issued face coverings may return them for a replacement. A temporary face covering can be obtained from the box office for those who forget their coverings. As supplies are limited, only one temporary face covering will be provided per person, per week.

Face Coverings: How Do I Wear a Face Covering?

Cloth face coverings:

  • Perform hand hygiene before handling the cloth face covering
  • Wear the clean cloth face covering by securing it with ties, ear loops, or tying behind the head
  • Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably against side of the face
  • Make sure hands are clean if any adjustments are needed

Bandanas and other materials:

  • Wrap around your face, covering your nose and mouth
  • Secure by tying a knot or use a safety pin

To remove all types of face coverings:

  • Perform hand hygiene before removing the cloth face covering
  • Carefully remove the face covering by loosening the ties or ear loops
  • Do not touch eyes, nose and mouth when removing face covering
  • Place used cloth face covering in a clean bag or container to be stored until it can be reused or cleaned
  • Immediately wash hands after removing face covering
Face Coverings: What Face Covering Should I Wear Around Flammable and Pyrophoric Materials?

When working with flammables and pyrophoric materials in a laboratory setting, attempt to physcially distance to negate the need of a face covering. If physical distancing is not possible, wear a 100% cotton face covering. Do not wear coverings with synthetic polymers or elastics (note that most surgical masks are made of polypropylene).

If a task normally requires respiratory protection, use the assigned PPE.

Face Coverings: How Do I Care For a Face Covering?
  • When soiled or dirty, wash the cloth face covering using a washing machine
  • The frequency of washing is dependent on frequency of use. It is recommended that the face covering be washed at least daily per CDC guidelines
  • Wash items as appropriate to the cloth material or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry completely before storage and reuse
  • Store clean cloth face covering in a clean bag or container until it can be reused
  • Containers used to store used or dirty face coverings shall be cleaned prior to reuse
Face Coverings: Are Face Shields Okay to Wear Instead of Face Coverings?

There are differing opinions out there on whether face shields are better than face coverings.  Disposable and reusable face shields are most frequently worn by health care professionals over a surgical mask who may be exposed to droplets that contain coronavirus.  Some articles state that face shields are best used in combination with a face covering while some state that face shields alone do not provide source control when an individual is sneezing or coughing.  Some articles plainly state that face shields have a limited ability to fully protect against droplets and are not effective in providing protection to the individual wearing the face shield or to others around them.  There is not enough data or studies performed yet to form a scientific conclusion.

EH&S doesn’t recommend wearing face shields in place of face coverings.  Face shields aren’t positioned close enough to the face to block what may be transmitted when an individual coughs or sneezes.  Outside of a clinical setting, face shields are not necessary if you are wearing a face covering.  According to the CDC, they “recommend wearing a cloth face covering as a measure to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets and help protect their co-workers and members of the general public.”  With face shields being in short supply, we recommend wearing face coverings instead of face shields as much as possible.  For situations where the individual may have medical conditions that prohibit them from wearing a face covering, a face shield may be a good alternative.  Additionally, when employees are working in warm weather or hot conditions, we recommend wearing a scarf or bandana or wetting the face covering with clean potable water for a cooling effect.

Indoor Air Quality: Is Recirculating Air a Concern Since Little is Known About the Possibility of Transmission Through AC Systems?

Aerosol transmission through the HVAC system has been suggested, but the available information to back up this claim has been speculative at best. Almost all buildings that you enter, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and medical offices will have a combination of outside and recirculated air. In any case, ALL supplied air (100% outside, recirculated, or a combination) goes through filters before it is distributed to a space.

Aerosol transmission based on the air dynamics in a room depends on the airflow pattern of the room, the point of release, and the point of reception. Current knowledge has shown that other mechanisms for spreading the virus are likely to be more significant. These mechanisms include:

  • direct person to person contact
  • indirect contact through inanimate objects like doorknobs
  • through the hands to mucous membranes such as those in the nose, mouth and eyes
  • droplets and possibly particles spread between people in close proximity.

For this reason, basic principles of social distancing, surface cleaning and disinfection, handwashing and other strategies of good hygiene are far more important than anything related to the HVAC system.

Indoor Air Quality: Has There Been Any Discussion About the Feasibility of Adding Air Purification/Sterilization to Existing AC Systems?

Ultraviolet light has been used for years to kill or inactivate microorganisms. Inactivation/kill rates depend on several variables including the specific microbe. UV light also loses its efficiency as the light ages. The effectiveness of UV-C at inactivating airborne microorganisms such as SARS-CoV-2 is limited because exposure time is on the order of seconds or fractions of seconds due to the rapid movement of air through the air handler.

Simply put, UV light may be ineffective when used to treat the airstream because the air simply moves too fast and limits the exposure time to UV light.

Indoor Air Quality: Can Airflow Be Increased and Local Air Filters Added to Increase the Rate of Introduction of Clean Air to Poorly Ventilated Common Areas (e.g. Bathrooms and Elevators)?

We are currently looking at elevator use to determine the best course in limiting ridership.
Maintaining social distance in closed quarters will be a challenge, which is why many of the health agencies emphasize the continuous use of face coverings, good hand hygiene, and conscientious housekeeping strategies.

Bathrooms are typically under negative pressure in relation to contiguous spaces. Increasing the supply air will upend that relationship and cause bathroom air to migrate out. Bathroom exhaust fans are limited in their ability to be increased.

Elevators: How Many People Can Be In An Elevator and Still Achieve Physical Distancing?

There are unique challenges in maintaining physical distancing inside elevators due to their relatively small size and limited ventilation. 

  • Per the CDC recommendations, riders must maintain 6 feet of spacing inside elevators, even when wearing face coverings
  • Most UCM elevators can transport between 2 to 4 people at a time, depending on the size of the elevator, while maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing between riders
  • Follow posted elevator occupancy signage (when applicable)
  • Please be aware of persons with disabilities when using elevators and make space so that they can use the elevator when needed
  • Always practice social distancing when waiting in line for an elevator or entering/exiting an elevator
Elevators: Will There Be Signs Providing Direction to People on Elevator Usage?

Yes, the following signs will be available in each campus elevator:

  • Occupancy of each elevator cab indicating maximum occupancy located on each floor in front of elevator doors.
  • Signs and markings on the floors indicating where riders should wait for an elevator
  • Reminders to limit touching of any surfaces while riding the elevator
  • Taking stairs whenever necessary to prevent wait lines from becoming overcrowded
Should I Wear Gloves?

Glove use is not necessary while avoiding potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Instead, after performing work activities, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water, and practice other preventative measures, such as wearing a face covering and practicing physical distancing.  While using cleaning and disinfecting agents, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

For staff performing frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, follow PPE recommendations as directed by EH&S.

How Do I Report Suspected or Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus?

If you are faculty or staff, stay home, report yourself unable to perform duties on campus to your supervisor, and contact the COVID Response Center for directions on the next steps at either (209) 228-0000 or COVIDResponseCtr@ucmerced.edu

If you are a student, even if you are also an employee of the university, please contact Student Health Services at (209) 228-2273 to report illness or symptoms.

Additionally, if you were exposed (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes or share bathroom and/or kitchen) to someone who tested COVID-19 positive within the last 14 days, or you have been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive within the last 10 days, stay home and contact the COVID Response Center at COVIDResponseCtr@ucmerced.edu or (209) 228-0000.

How Do I Work Ergonomically From Home?

Please see the resources on our Working Remotely web page to assist you in setting up and working ergonomically from a remote location.

Workplace Injury/Illness: What Are The Injury/Illness Reporting Requirements At This Time?

As employees work remotely, EH&S still requires work-related injuries to be reported within 24 hours. 

Reporting Information for Employees

Reporting Information for Supervisors

Questions on Workers’ Compensation benefits while working remotely should be directed to benefits@ucmerced.edu

Workplace Injury/Illness: What Is Considered A Work-Related Injury While Working Remotely?

Questions on Workers’ Compensation benefits while working remotely should be directed to benefits@ucmerced.edu