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Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 FAQs

The following list of FAQs has been compiled by Virginia Tech Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). For additional information and FAQs, please visit the university's COVID-19 site.

Face coverings, masks, and respirators

Under the Governor’s Executive Order 63, all university community members at Virginia Tech facilities are required to wear a face covering when in close proximity to others in both indoor and outdoor settings. 

Face coverings (or respiratory protection if needed for a specific hazard) must be worn at all times while in labs/research areas and other spaces to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, anyone with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask is not recommended by their medical provider or anyone who has trouble breathing is exempted, but should wear a face shield instead. Please click here for EHS guidelines on the use of face coverings, masks, and respiratorsAdditional details may also be found in this Campus Notice.

If you or a team member require a respirator as part of your job and have not been previously cleared by EHS to wear one, please contact EHS at ehsmedserv@vt.edu. If you need PPE that is required for specific research activities, contact the IBCP Director (ibc@vt.edu).

All persons must obtain a type of face covering that provides a good, comfortable fit before they return to campus. Some departments may provide face coverings for employees, but such provision could be made difficult due to shortages. Because cloth face coverings are washable, reusable and inexpensive to make, they are recommended.

On July 6, 2020, Virginia Tech launched its centralized process for the distribution of personal protective equipment and supplies (PPE). Please click here to learn more and view the Campus Notice.

The following products are available through the centralized inventory:

  • 3-ply disposable surgical masks with ear loops – in packages of 50 masks
  • 100 percent cotton, machine-washable cloth masks – in packages of 5 masks
  • Nitrile gloves (Sizes S, M, L, and XL) – in boxes of 100 gloves
  • Latex gloves (Sizes S, M, L, and XL) – in boxes of 100 gloves
  • Hand sanitizer individual bottles (Sizes S, M or L) – each
  • Disinfectant spray bottles – each (*please note, due to a national shortage, no disinfectant wipes are available)
  • No-touch monitoring thermometers – each (one thermometer may be utilized for entire units)
  • Face Shields (disposable) with elastic head band – in packages of 10 shields

Questions may be directed to procurement@vt.edu.

Visit this page for information from the Office for Equity and Accessibility on ADA and other EEO laws as it relates to COVID-19. In addition to the guidelines in Executive Order 63 on medical exemptions for face coverings, if employees feel they need workplace accommodation because they are a member of a high-risk population, contact ADA and Accessibility Services at adaaccess@vt.edu.

These personal protective equipment (PPE) items are in short supply. We can do our part to control COVID-19 by using face coverings so the limited supply of respiratory PPE can be provided to those who most need it in health care settings or where required for research or other work.

Yes, face coverings may be reusable or homemade cloth masks, dust masks, or surgical masks. Coverings that fit close to the face with no loose edges are the safest choice to use in labs/research spaces, shops, and similar spaces. Homemade and cloth face coverings should have several layers of fabric for added filtration.

Please click here for EHS guidelines around the use of face coverings, masks, and respirators.

When in residence hall common spaces, such as hallways, study lounges, and stairwells, students should have a face covering at all times. Face coverings should also be worn when in close proximity (less than 6 feet) with others. While in a residence hall room alone or with a roommate, students are not required to wear a face covering. If anyone beyond the primary occupants are in the room, face coverings are required.

Hand washing, hand sanitizer

For more information around ordering critical supplies like hand sanitizer for your unit or department, please refer to this July 2020 Campus Notice.

To mitigate the potential for contamination of high touch points, over 2,000 hand sanitizer dispensers will be positioned at building entrances, exits, elevators, and classrooms across the Blacksburg campus. 

In place of hand sanitizer, wash your hands at a sink with soap and warm water or at a handwashing sink in the lab for at least 20 seconds, whenever possible. Hand sanitizer should be used only in places where there is no sink available. Refer to these hand washing guidelines from the CDC for additional information.

Wash your hands at a sink with soap and warm water or at a handwashing sink in the lab for at least 20 seconds, whenever possible. Hand sanitizer should be used only in places where there is no sink available. Please refer to this CDC video on proper handwashing techniques. Also, remember to use paper towels to shut off the faucet when finished washing your hands to avoid recontamination. 

Hand washing printable downloads:

 

Please speak with your supervisor about purchasing appropriate disinfectants. For more information around ordering PPE for your unit or department, please refer to this July 2020 Campus Notice.

Pandemic vehicle occupancy and disinfection requirements

  • When there are two or more passengers, vehicle occupants must wear a face covering at all times while in the vehicle.
  • In passenger cars, no more than two riders is recommended (driver and one person in the rear).
  • In any vehicle, no one should sit directly behind anyone or in the same row, but rather sit diagonally to maximize physical distancing.
  • Please refer to the illustration below for a variety of passenger van configurations.
  • Each traveler should be assigned a specific seat. Maintaining the same driver and passenger seat assignments will decrease the need for cleaning.
  • Alternate seating positions will help maximize physical distance between vehicle occupants with a maximum of one person per row; for instance, a 4-door vehicle with two rows of seating (sedan or 5-to-6 passenger SUV) can have one driver and one passenger.

The following guidelines are recommended to minimize the potential for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 while traveling with a group.

  • The driver of the vehicle is responsible for cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces inside and outside the vehicle. 
  • High touch surfaces include exterior and interior door handles and grips, interior door and window controls, arm rests, safety belts, cup holders, glove/storage compartment latches, air vents, gear shift, center console (climate/audio controls), steering wheel, visors, and rear view mirror.
  • Surfaces will be cleaned before and after use and when occupants change position.

Recommended seating for a 15 passenger van

  • One person per seat and alternating sides.
  • Maximize the movement of air within the passenger compartment of the vehicle using a combination of the vehicle's climate control system and windows so that each passenger is in the vehicle is supplied with fresh, un-recirculated air.
  • Researchers participating in field work should be assigned to a specific travel group and remain in that travel group for the duration of the work season/semester, to minimize potential transmission to others participating in the same field research project.
  • When fueling the vehicle wear disposable gloves to minimize contact with high touch surfaces. Use pay at the pump options if available.
diagonal seat diagram within passenger van

Research, laboratories

Equipment and surfaces should be disinfected before and after use with a CDC-recommended disinfectant against SARS-CoV-2. These include products that include 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide, at least 70 percent alcohol or 1-5 percent bleach diluted in water. Lab workers/researchers should disinfect surfaces and equipment before and after use. Please refer to these Laboratory Disinfection Guidelines.

Click here for EHS COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures for On-Site Laboratories.

In addition to routine environmental cleaning EHS recommends disinfection of commonly touched areas (e.g., freezer doors, fume hood sashes, bottles and jars, cabinet handles, doorknobs, sink handles, and telephones) with effective disinfectants.

Contact EHS at VT-EHS@vt.edu or 540-231-3600 if you have additional questions regarding the appropriate disinfectants.

Please contact EHS at VT-EHS@vt.edu or 540-231-3600 so your inquiry may be directed to the appropriate staff member for response. Please also refer to Phase Two, Modified Operations for Research.

Please visit this July 2020 Campus Notice for details around the university's PPE centralized inventory and ordering process.

For additional questions around specialized PPE requests, please contact the IBCP director at ibc@vt.edu

Biosafety cabinets are required to be certified on an annual basis. As of March 24, 2020, certification vendors are still providing services following all CDC recommendations. If you wish to delay certification, please reschedule your certification date with the vendor. As long as the unit is still functioning appropriately and there are no immediate operational concerns, you may wait to have the unit certified. Please contact EHS at VT-EHS@vt.edu or 540-231-3600 with any additional questions.

Please refer to the Virginia Tech Employee FAQs for more information.

Visit FAQs: Impact on Research Services and Units for more information. Please also refer to thee university's Phase Two, Modified Operations for Research (updated as of June 15, 2020).

Lab managers must maintain a log to indicate the date and times for which each individual is present. This is mandated for legal and health-related requirements, such as contact tracing. Please refer to Phase Two, Modified Operations for Research for additional details.

If you receive a report from an employee of suspected exposure or a diagnosis of COVID-19, please report this to OVPRI-HR at 540-819-2324 or sburks@vt.edu and contact Mike Mulhare, associate vice president for Emergency Management at 540-231-4871 for instructions on possible communication to the work team and next steps.

Advise the employee to not report to work or immediately leave work until they have contacted their medical provider or contacted the New River Health District (NRHD) and followed the guidance received. NRHD has a hotline (540-267-8240) and an online survey that an employee can complete. For general public health information related to COVID-19, please follow these guidelines on the VT.edu/ready site.

Please visit the July 2020 Campus Notice on the university's centralized PPE inventory and ordering process.

Face coverings (or respiratory protection if needed for a specific hazard) must be worn at all times while in labs/research areas and other spaces to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, anyone with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask is not recommended by their medical provider or anyone who has trouble breathing is exempted, but should wear a face shield instead.

Face coverings (or respiratory protection if needed for a specific hazard) must be worn at all times while in labs/research areas and other spaces to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, anyone with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask is not recommended by their medical provider or anyone who has trouble breathing is exempted, but should wear a face shield instead.

Additional questions, resources

Please contact EHS at VT-EHS@vt.edu or 540-231-3600 so your inquiry may be directed to the appropriate staff member for response.

When possible, in-person EHS training classes will either be hosted on Zoom or postponed. Registrants will hear from EHS. Registrants may contact cuporter@vt.edu with any training questions.

Click here for resources.

Visit vt.edu/ready for the latest updates.

Please click here for EHS COVID-19 guidance for supervisors.

Colleges, departments or units planning to install safety shields or barriers in customer service areas should submit a work order through HokieServ.

Colleges, departments or units interested in mobile/modular customer service shield solutions that don’t require installation should refer to this Procurement list of suppliers to order. The Procurement team is also available to answer questions at hokiemart@vt.edu.

Units in leased facilities across the commonwealth may direct questions to Virginia Tech Real Estate at vtrealestate-g@vt.edu.