UCI Forward

UCI Forward is our commitment to the well-being of our community as we ramp up campus operations. Working together, each of us doing our part, we can move UCI Forward.

Operations: FAQs

Returning to Campus: Operations FAQs

This FAQ page is being regularly updated to reflect campus operations as well as the latest advice and information from county, state and federal authorities. You can access specific information by clicking on each bucket or scroll down to see all FAQs.

If you have a question that isn't answered in these FAQs, please submit it by clicking the button below:

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Face Coverings

Face Coverings

In compliance with the California Department of Public Health, all individuals on UCI-controlled property are required to wear face coverings to reduce possible exposure and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the UCI community.  Please read UCI’s Executive Directive for details, including permitted exceptions. Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) is offering face coverings to campus employees.

Students returning to campus will be issued three washable masks per quarter. Although daily machine washing is recommended, the masks can also be cleaned with soap and water in a sink.

In labs where people are working with flammable materials they should not wear cloth face coverings and instead should wear ASTM Level 1 surgical masks. In some UCI locations, such as the UCI Health System (including UCI Medical Center, Gottschalk Plaza, and other UCI Health clinics) or labs with hazardous or flammable materials, stricter face-covering or PPE requirements may apply.

How do I obtain a face covering?

In order to assist Campus departments in providing face coverings as we ramp-up operations, EH&S will be scheduling cotton face covering pick up services on the days and times listed below. Once you receive an email confirmation, please go to EH&S to pick up the face coverings. When picking up the supplies, please adhere to appropriate physical distancing practices.

• HOW: Have your supervisor email a request with the department name and number of employees to safety@uci.edu. EH&S will respond with a pick up day and time for the request.

• WHERE: Environmental Health & Safety Department (4600 Health Sciences Road - Building 41 on the campus map)

• DATES: Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Note: Student Affairs will be distributing face coverings to students. EH&S pick-ups are for Campus employees only.

If you require a back-up face covering...

For your safety and the safety of others, additional face coverings are available at select locations.

• Please only take one

• Text or email safety@uci.edu if container is empty or running low

Here are the select locations:

• Pippen Dining Commons - entrance

• Brandywine Dining Commons - entrance

• Parking Structure Kiosk across from Student Center; contact parking attendant

• Anteater Learning Pavilion – entrance of building contact Son Nguyen

• Engineering Tower - loading Dock contact Mike Kennedy or Dennis Aldridge

• School of Law – contact Garth Revtyak

• Med Sci C –stack – contact Jeff Dillon

• McGaugh Hall loading dock room 1439F contact Robyn Stifler

• Anteater Recreation Center (ARC) - front desk

• FRESH Hub every Wednesday 11-4pm and Thursdays 1-4pm.

Bathrooms and plumbing systems

Bathrooms and Plumbing Systems

UCI is enhancing custodial services with the hiring of additional workers to perform cleaning of areas following guidance’s from Centers for Disease Control, CalOSHA and California Department of Public Health. In addition, supplies including hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, paper towels and disposable gloves will be provided centrally to returning groups.

Campus restroom facilities and other plumbing systems are not designed to handle disinfectant wipes. Cleaning wipes do not break down or dissolve and should not be flushed down toilets. Doing so can lead to significant building floods and could ultimately require closure of buildings and interruption of operations. This type of material should be discarded in the trash only.

Cleaning and disinfecting supplies

Cleaning and Disinfecting Supplies

As UCI continues to prepare for the gradual phase-in return to campus, the COVID-19 Logistical Support Team has been established to coordinate inventory and supply-chain processes for items needed to support the work being done by various departments to ensure local requirements are met as we return to campus.

To avoid competing with ourselves in procuring common commodities, the following supplies will be purchased centrally and redistributed to the areas returning to campus:

  • Disinfectant Spray
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Paper Towels
  • Sanitizing Wipes (limited supply for areas with shared computers)
  • Washable Face Coverings

The transition to phase 3 for research activities is underway. Point-persons from each department/unit that have received authorization to return to campus will need to complete the following form to help coordinate logistics for the above items: Supplies Needed to Return to Campus.

Wall-mounted and free-standing hand sanitizer dispensers are being ordered with the goal of being placed at building entrances, common areas, and classroom spaces. As there is considerable lead time on procuring and installing these dispensers, some groups will receive bottles of alcohol-based sanitizers while dispensers are being installed.

We understand that some workplaces may require physical barriers such as plexiglass or other impermeable dividers or partitions to help physically separate people. Please email your request to LogisticalSupportTeam@uci.edu so an evaluation of the workspace can be conducted.

In addition, custodial services is cleaning and disinfecting common areas more frequently. All high-traffic areas are cleaned twice daily, Monday through Friday. Employees are responsible for routinely cleaning their workspace such as keyboards, mouse, desktops, chair arms, telephones, etc. Visit Facilities Management’s website for more information.

Campus restroom facilities and other plumbing systems are not designed to handle disinfectant wipes. Cleaning wipes do not break down or dissolve and should not be flushed down toilets. Doing so can lead to significant building floods and could ultimately require closure of buildings and interruption of operations. This type of material should be discarded in the trash only.

If you need any guidance or have questions, please email LogisticalSupportTeam@uci.edu.

Bottled Water Dispenser and Drinking Water System Units

Bottled Water Dispenser and Drinking Water System Units

How safe is my office water dispensing system?

  • There are safety concerns with drinking bottled water from a unit that has not been used or flushed out for extended periods of time.
  • Based on information provided by the CDC , there is no evidence COVID-19 is transmitted through drinking water, recreational water, or wastewater. The risk of COVID-19 transmission through water is expected to be low. The standards for bottled water are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA bases its standards on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards for tap water.

How often do I have to get my bottled water dispenser serviced and maintained?

Manufacturer suggests routine cleaning and maintenance be done twice a year.

Where can I find more information on water quality/safety related to water dispensers/coolers that have not been used for an extended period?

Who do I contact to clean or service my bottled water unit if it hasn't been used for an extended amount of time?

  • Contact the manufacturer and follow steps based on their recommendations.
    • For water provided by Nestle Waters North America (our Campus primary water provider), they provide a service which is offered at a cost of $59.99 based on the most current price agreement:
      • Bottled Water Service Vendor contact info:
        Lucrecia Castellon | Key Account Manager
        Nestlé Waters North America
        619 North Main Street Orange, California 92868
        M 714-337-8447 | F 714-639-9471
  • For all other vendor information, contact Procurement Services or if the unit has a label, contact them with the information provided on the unit.

What other steps can I take to ensure my office water dispensing system is safe to use?

  • Discard the partially used (opened) bottle. .
  • Drain the unit’s reservoir and thoroughly clean the unit in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations or you can get the dispenser cleaned or serviced by an outside service provider..
  • Read the label on your bottled water. While there is currently no standardized label for bottled water, this label may tell you about the way the bottled water is treated..
  • Check the label for a toll-free number or Web page address of the company that bottled the water. This may be a source of further information..
  • Use the dispensers with a new water bottle after verifying the “Best By” date on the bottle.
    • A “Best By” date, which applies only to unopened products, is a 2 year or 1 1/2 year shelf life window, depending on the product, by which the consumer may measure "the age" of the water. You know it has been bottled 2 years, or 1 1/2 years, prior to the “best by” date on the bottle.

What other proactive or preventative steps can I take?

  • Wash hands before changing a water bottle.
  • Gently wipe down the surface area of the equipment using the appropriate disinfectant.
  • Wipe down the dispenser with disinfectant around the water-dispensing hot and cold spigots, levers or faucets.
  • Wipe the top and neck of the new bottle with a clean sterile cloth.
  • Remove the drip tray and wash with mild dishwashing soap.
  • Do not touch the end of the water cooler with your hands or any items such as glasses, cups, or small water bottles that have come into contact with your mouth. 
  • Continue with a no-contact water delivery service. If you have any special instructions, communicate with the vendor via email, by phone, or leave a note for your delivery person.


Air Quality Related to COVID-19 Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Building Ventilation and Filtration Webpage

What do we know about how droplets and aerosols travel and how does our HVAC address both of those to reduce potential virus transmission?

When we look at the heating ventilation and air conditioning systems on campus and the air that's being moved throughout those systems, we want to understand the two main transmission paths for COVID-19. The droplet-based transmission stays in the immediate area because it's impacted by gravity. The droplets are large enough that they're pulled out of the air within that three to six-foot range. There's also the aerosolized transmission path. This is a much smaller particle that is not impacted by gravity and can ride on air currents, traveling great distances including into the exhaust system for the heating and cooling ducts.

Since March we have taken specific actions throughout the campus pointing to the heating ventilation and air conditioning side such as maximizing the dilution ventilation and maximizing the amount of outside air. This is the best path forward for droplet-based transmission and for aerosol-based transmission. This dilutes the concentration of particulate in the air, and minimizes the possibility of spreading through recirculation.

For more information on how UCI is handling indoor air quality as people return to campus, watch Anteater Insider Live: Episode 2 | The Health of Indoor Air.

Is there guidance that we must comply with for HVAC standards?

We're working with many partners throughout the industry to understand how to implement the best mitigation strategies for COVID-19. We're currently working with both CDC and the World Health Organization's guidance and implementing the American Society for Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommendations. We also work with some of our campus partners like Three Flow Technologies, Taylor Engineering and the UC Office of the President.

For more information on how UCI is handling indoor air quality as people return to campus, watch Anteater Insider Live: Episode 2 | The Health of Indoor Air.

How does air circulation work? And how has it been changed at UCI as a result of the pandemic?

First and foremost, facilities management has had continuous operation of heating ventilation and air conditioning systems throughout campus. Since COVID began, we did not shut down buildings, even though there was a curtailment of classes and work on campus. That also means that we didn't curtail or shut down our maintenance program. We continued all maintenance on campus throughout the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which puts us in a much better position coming back to campus as those systems had no stagnation and were maintained throughout the entire time.

HVAC filters are rated in MERV ratings from 1 to 20, and 17 through 20 are what are referred to as HEPA filters. HEPA filters have the highest efficiency and remove the smallest particles from the air. Unfortunately, those filters are not compatible with the air handling units and air conditioning systems that we have on campus.

Industry standard for places like grocery stores, restaurants, and other common buildings that you might travel to is a MERV-8 rated filter. A home furnace might have a MERV-8 rated filter. These filters are utilized in some campus trailer and temporary buildings. UCI buildings with small air handlers were MERV-10 and are being upgraded to a MERV-13 rated filter. The MERV-13 level of filtration is the ASHRAE recommended filter in response to COVID-19. UCI buildings with larger handlers such as Aldrich Hall, Biological Sciences 3 and Engineering Hall all have MERV 15 filters. MERV 15 filters are used exclusively throughout the campus in our large air handlers and are several steps above the ASHRAE recommendation.

For more information on how UCI is handling indoor air quality as people return to campus, watch Anteater Insider Live: Episode 2 | The Health of Indoor Air.

What if someone in the same space is contagious? Does the filtration protect me from COVID-19?

With respect to the HVAC systems campus has reduced occupancy, which increases dilution ventilation, and we have increased the percentage of outside air flow, and are flushing buildings with fresh air before and after occupancy. These steps mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. Filtration also mitigates risk however the transmission of the virus can still occur.

What is the difference between air circulation in a classroom versus an office space or a lab?

Labs zones utilize 100% outside air. The air enters the air handler where it is filtered, heated, or cooled, and then supplied to the lab zones. All of the air is then exhausted with no re-recirculation or re-entrainment. Labs have high volumes of dilution ventilation and utilize high MERV filtration ratings.

For the offices and classrooms, we have what we call a return air system. This is basically supply air from the outside mixed with some portion of return air. All of the air is cooled/heated and filtered. Currently we modulated the amount of outside air to maximize outside air and limit the return air that goes back into the building. We also have the high to medium MERV filtration, rated filters.

Trailers, and temporary buildings that we have on campus have limited outside air. They have high levels of recirculation, and most of the exhaust is through exfiltration of the building. They also have the lowest MERV rated filters on campus. Which are still at industry standard or a MERV-8 rated filter.

Is it a good idea to open the windows in an office/classroom/lab?

Any time you can increase the dilution ventilation which lowers the concentration of particulate or virus particles in the space will lower the potential dose you could receive. You should never open a lab window as those zones are specifically designed to capture any effluent in the lab zone and exhaust it safely.

Is it better to have meetings/discussions outside?

If you are able to find and “open air” meeting space, you are welcome to convene your meeting there. However, keep in mind that “Open air” does not mean contaminant-free air. Anyone in the path of the air currents (wind) will be exposed to anyone upstream. There will be more particles in the air outside than there are particles inside a building with filtration.

What about air circulation in bathrooms and elevators?

Here, too we rely on the CDC guidance. These smallest spaces, such as bathrooms and elevator are ventilated 24/7. These spaces operate using fixed exhaust fans, which run 24/7, so those spaces are constantly being exhausted.

However, they still present a challenge in that it is difficult to physically distance and people must adhere to the face covering directive in these spaces to help prevent the spread.

Should employees bring in personal fans? Do those help?

There is no reason to bring in personal fans, the air conditioning systems are still cooling as designed. Fans may help spread the virus, or push the virus spread further depending on how they are used.

How often are our HVAC systems checked and maintained?

The HVAC systems are continuously monitored utilizing building management systems and a network of sensors.

As part of Facilities Management’s comprehensive preventative maintenance program, our skilled technicians inspect, clean and maintain building air-handling systems biannually. Preventive maintenance includes:

  • Vacuuming and cleaning air intakes and catch basins and air-handling rooms
  • Washing air handler fins and coils
  • Checking and replacing all pre-filters and filters at least once a year, more often on smaller buildings
  • Cleaning and treating the water in all closed-loop systems

For more information on how UCI is handling indoor air quality as people return to campus, watch Anteater Insider Live: Episode 2 | The Health of Indoor Air.

How does UV light play into air circulation?

At this time, we're implementing the best strategies possible to mitigate COVID-19 throughout the campus. We've reviewed personalized ventilation systems and UV lighting systems, including their effectiveness and whether or not they can be implemented on campus.

The feasibility of adding air purification sterilizers to existing air conditioning systems, especially ultraviolet light is being scrutinized by the industry for effectiveness. Ultraviolet light has shown to kill COVID-19. However, in a heating ventilation and air conditioning system the air is moving so quickly, there is not enough time for the UV light to be effective on the COVID-19 virus, as it moves through the air.

What level of filtration does UCI use?

UCI trailiers use filters with a MERV 8 rating that are effective in filtering particles such as mold spores, cooking dusts, hair spary and furniture polish. MERV 8 is insudtry standard

UCI buildings with small AHU's use filters with a MERV 10 rating that are effective in filtering particles such as lead dust, flour, auto fumes and welding fumes. Faciiltes Management recommends these filters be upgraded to acheive a MERV 13 rating and the ability to filter particles such as bacteria, smoke and sneezes.

UCI buildings with large AHU's use filters with a MERV 15 rating that can filter particles similar to those as MERV 13 filters, but with greater efficacy.

Learn more about MERV ratings on the EPA website.