The University of Virginia has invested in personal protective equipment, purchased from local vendors, to distribute to students, faculty and staff members as the University reopens.
“We are focused on having the students, the faculty and staff remain as safe as possible in these uncertain times,” John DeSilva, UVA’s director of emergency management, said. “We are taking a variety of precautions, developing new policies and procedures, and working with local vendors to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect those on Grounds as we reopen the University for in-person education.”
The University has purchased two cloth face coverings for each employee in the Academic Division (a total of 42,000 in all), and 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stands that will go in high-traffic common areas, such as Newcomb Hall and the John Paul Jones Arena, plus an additional 1,000 one-gallon containers to go in those spaces that don’t receive the free-standing units. The University has also purchased a supply of sanitizing wipes for use on surfaces such as desks and chairs and disposable face coverings that can be offered to students, faculty, staff, and others who might arrive without one.
For students, the University has ordered 25,000 “Welcome Back Kits,” which contain two cloth face coverings, two 2-ounce containers of hand sanitizer and a touch-tool, all packaged in a drawstring bag.
“The tool can fit on your key chain,” DeSilva said. “It has an ‘L’ shape on one end that you can use to pull open door handles and it has a rounded end that you can use to touch an elevator keypad or other touch keypads instead of using your finger.”
About 75% of the cloth face coverings were delivered to the University last week, and the Welcome Back Kits are expected in the middle of July.
The cloth face coverings and the student kits were purchased from Bright Ideas in Troy, Virginia, and the disposable wipes and face coverings from the Supply Room Companies of Ashland.
Bright Ideas is a local, small, woman-owned business that sells promotional products as their core business, such as branded T-shirts. “We were excited to partner with them to deliver the cloth face coverings and the student kits,” said Jenn Glassman, UVA’s director of procurement and supplier diversity. “We got sanitizing wipes and the bulk buy on the disposable face coverings from The Supply Room Companies, whom we typically buy office supplies from.”
The University is spending about $400,000 for the personal protective equipment.
“The welcome back kits for the students is $288,000, and when you include freight, it is going to run just under $300,000,” DeSilva said. “Cloth face coverings for employees are going to run just under $90,000.”
The University is submitting the expense to the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a law intended to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSilva said the amount and timing of any potential reimbursement is uncertain.
In providing face coverings, the University is assisting students and employees in complying with UVA’s face-covering and social distancing policy.
“While you are indoors at work as a student, faculty or staff member, you have to wear a face covering, unless it is a situation where you have your own office and you’re the only one in your office,” DeSilva said.
DeSilva said the University followed Centers for Disease Control guidelines in its face-covering acquisitions.
“The CDC guidelines recommend cloth face-coverings for all of us, unless your job is so specific you need a special type of mask,” DeSilva said. “People can also buy their own or make their own, following the CDC guidelines posted on its website.”
While waiting for the cloth face coverings, the University purchased a supply of disposable ones.
“In the interim before the order for cloth face coverings was placed, we also purchased three-ply disposable masks that look like surgical masks, but they are not medical-grade,” DeSilva said. “That was for people who might need them now. We have been distributing some of them generally. So far, we have ordered 19,000 and we have distributed more than 13,000. That will probably slow down when people start getting the cloth face coverings in their hands, but we needed to get something out there to protect employees right away.”