Riverside, California, USA - JUNE 4TH, 2016: The famous University of California's sign at UC Riverside, California, 2016

The facilities services department at University of California, Riverside have kept the campus clean and well-maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite being flooded with constant change.

Department staff -- which includes custodial and maintenance workers -- have worked through three different phases during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the university website. The first phase began when campus closed on March 13, 2020 and ran through May. At first, the phase involved retraining staff on how to carry out proper cleaning and disinfecting work while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to reaffirming how to clean and disinfect while wearing PPE, workers had to learn how to work under social distancing restrictions. For example, only one employee at a time could travel down a one-way path to clock in and collect the keys they need to work. After each use, those keys had to be disinfected by supervisors, who then placed them in box for safe keeping. 

Scheduling changed a lot under that first phase, too. Before the pandemic, workers were scheduled for three shifts, five days a week. However, efforts to reduce the number of custodians working at the same time resulted in those workers being scheduled to work five shifts every seven days.

Other changes during phase one included a greater focus on cleaning high-touch surfaces and only permitting the use of disinfectants placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's List N.

The second phase lasted from June to August and focused on preparing campus to reopen for the fall semester. Custodians began using electrostatic sprayers so that they could more efficiently clean high-touch surfaces, which continued to be a focal point in the cleaning and disinfecting process. Those sprayers work with botanical-based disinfectant, which the department sided with because of its desire to stick with green cleaning.

Autumn came, but a full offering of in-person classes never took place. Despite the mostly empty campus for the fall semester, the department moved to its third and latest phase. This involved maintaining the about 40 rooms that were being used for teaching labs and in-person art instruction. Those rooms were cleaned each night and disinfectant was left in each area so that faculty could wipe down labs in-between cleanings. 

Student residence halls were being used, which housekeeping staff began cleaning every day instead of only Monday-Friday. The restrooms in these halls are cleaned three times a day and high-touch points and public area received electrostatic treatment twice a day. Students are expected to do their part too, by using disinfecting wipes in public areas when they're using them.

The less-than-full campus has provided staff time to complete some deep cleaning projects. This included putting in new carpeting and floor and shining floors.

Phase four is expected to take place before the planned fall 2021 semester. If students do return, the department will be working at less than full-power due to budget cuts.