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)

Additional FAQs are available on EH&S's Building Ventilation and Filtration webpage.

Is recirculating air a concern, since little is known about the possibility of transmission through AC systems? Are there places where people can work that have outside air?

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 cases, ALL supplied air (100% outside, recirculated, or a combination) goes through filters before it is distributed to a space.

A number of online conversations refer to the installation of MERV-12 filters for the AC systems. The air handlers at UCI typically use MERV-15 filters, which are hospital grade air filtration media that are highly effective at capturing many contaminants. A few smaller buildings, or buildings with package type HVAC units are not designed to accommodate MERV 14+ filters. In such cases, UCI uses the most efficient available filters for these areas, which are serviced and changed more frequently.

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. Initial understanding showed 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

Most recent evidence suggest airborne spread is possible. The campus is taking steps to ensure ventilation systems are using the most outside air possible, running extended hours to provide a building flush, and filtration levels are upgraded to the highest level possible for the system design.


When meeting with faculty/grad students/others in person, does it make sense to have designated "open air" meeting spaces where people can stay socially distant, but have the advantage of natural air circulation?

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.


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.

How many people can be in an elevator at the same time?

With the elimination of physical distancing requirements, elevators will no longer have any capacity limits and capacity signs will be removed. Many regulatory health agencies continue to emphasize the continuous use of face coverings for unvaccinated individuals, good hand hygiene, and conscientious housekeeping strategies.

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.

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.