While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wrecking ball on campus life, some things simply don’t change. Like the grass along the Academic Mall. It’s still growing — and still being buzzed back down to a tidy couple of inches by the likes of Christopher Lane.
Over in the Westfall building, Andrew Erickson is sorting through the deliveries from UPS and FedEx to make sure you get your latest order of lab supplies and computer replacement parts.
And, though students are streaming their classes rather than streaming through buildings between classes, there are pockets of people working in labs and offices all around campus. So Jarrell Siler is still emptying the waste bins and mopping the floors; he’s just wearing a mask now when he does it.
“We’re using the same practices and commercial disinfectants as before, but we’re focusing even more vigilantly on the touchpoints,” said Doug McLean, assistant director in facilities over the custodial crew.
Due to the pandemic, the custodial crews have been reduced with about 22 UNLV custodians working at night and four working during the day. That's down from the usual team of 130. His team is also preparing for the day the throngs of Rebels return with the installation of 100 hand sanitizer dispensers in high-usage areas, such as right outside elevators. “We’re considering that just a start,” he said.
Outside the buildings, nine of the usual 45 groundskeepers are making sure weeds don’t overtake the campus. Matthew Whinery also said that, although some regular maintenance work in buildings is on hold in the interest of social distancing, employees regularly check to make sure any issues that pop up, like a leak in the Stan Fulton Building, are handled before damage is done.
Meanwhile, his teams that process purchase orders and bid out jobs are keeping projects moving forward remotely. Since construction is an essential function, projects can continue. “The Catch-22 is that this is the best time in history to do work on buildings because the work won’t disrupt classes but it’s also the worst because of the economic impacts — we have to decide what we truly must do and be good stewards of state money.”
Those employees coming to campus, he noted, take steps to make sure they keep their distance from each other. “We’ve made some adjustments, like making sure that no one works shoulder-to-shoulder or rides in carts together,” Whinery said. “They know there’s some risk but they're still coming in. It’s really a reflection of how special this place is, and how proud they are of their campus — they want to keep it safe and secure and ready for when everyone comes back.”
McLean added, “For most of my (custodial) team, the main part of their work happens at night, and it’s easy to take for granted. I tell them, ‘Right now is one of the rare times you get to be in the spotlight. Your job is always important, but never more so than now.'"
“So, when people start to come back, I hope they remember that these teams have been here working, trying to keep things in good repair. It’s always nice for them to hear a 'thank you.'”