Covid-19 Briefing Series June 29, 2020

In the latest COVID-19 Briefing Series from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign topics regarding cleaning, building operations, and safety were addressed. 

Important issues were covered such as how the university is calculating room capacities, how the new course schedule is being created, how we are prioritizing cleaning and why it is not necessary to lengthen the passing period between classes.   

The brief, moderated by Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs Robin Kaler, featured discussions from Executive Associate Provost for Capital Planning Matthew Tomaszewski, Executive Director for Illinois Facilities & Services Mohamed Attalla, Associate Director of the Illinois Fire Service Institute Brian Braur and Associate Registrar for Facility Management and Scheduling Kirstin McMurray. 

The university announced that masks won’t be required in private spaces. Here, the definition of a private space is an enclosed office that a student, staff or faculty member might have. A cubicle can also count as a private space if the cubicle itself is above the head of the user. Any cubicles that are below the head of the user may be modified to meet the new guidelines. 

The university is not requiring students, staff or faculty wear gloves, however, it is recommended to wash your hands as often as you can.  

The university is still deciding which classes will be online and which classes will be in-person. There are a number of initiatives the university is looking at in order to maximize the number of in-person classes available, including using non-academic facilities with a large amount of square footage.

Faculty and staff will be provided with two masks. University units will have disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers available at no charge. The university is estimating that it will need 11 million wipes for the Fall semester. There are currently 1 million wipes available, with 6 million more on the way.

Classroom sizes are being determined not by the size of the rooms themselves, but rather how much social distancing can occur within each classroom. For example, students tend to sit much closer to each other in lecture halls with theater-style seating, so measurements had to be taken in order to figure out which seats can students sit on.

In designing new classroom layouts, the university is also working with disability professionals to make sure that classrooms are still accessible to all students, staff and faculty.

When it comes to passing periods between classes, the university is working with experts in the civil engineering department to look at the predicted occupancy load and traffic patterns in each building and are looking to see if certain hallways need to be one way based on the size of the space and distance to exits.

A pilot simulation was conducted in Lincoln Hall to test the feasibility of distance changes. The Lincoln Hall Theater sits just over 600 people and maintaining six feet and social distancing that would mean leaving the first two rows empty and sitting every other row. That results in only 30% use of the hall.

Based on the simulation and a theorized lower number of people coming in and out of the building at once, they concluded that extending passing periods between classes is not needed. They are looking to work building by building and develop plans based on the results of the simulation.

Jose Zepeda contributed to this report