University Park coronavirus testing site chosen for safety features

During the universal re-testing period at University Park, all students will be required to take a COVID-19 test between Feb. 15 and Feb. 26 at the White Building, a location selected by a team of experts as the ideal facility for students to be tested on campus.

A team of experts following CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance— including Environmental Health and Safety, engineering, epidemiology and facility planning and management experts — looked at many factors when choosing the testing site and layered multiple precautionary measures to create an environment for testing that reduces risks as much as reasonably possible.

Room 126 White Building safety factors include: 

  • GREATER SIZE AND SPACE: The main gym of the White Building is 14,442 square feet with 24-foot ceilings. That gives it a volume of 346,600 cubic feet, a major factor when selecting a testing site. “The more volume you have for the testing space, the more area you have for the virus to potentially be dissipated through the air,” said Greg Andersen, assistant director in the Office of Physical Plant (OPP). “If you were in a small room or a very contained space and someone sneezes there’s not as much air volume to dissipate the virus.”
  • SOCIAL DISTANCING: Students who come to be tested will use a separate entrance from visitors to the rest of the building. The gym is laid out so that students who line up to get tested can remain six feet apart at all times. Markings on the floor will help students keep their distance. Where students need to interact with test administrators, plexiglass barriers have been installed as an added level of safety.
  • BETTER AIRFLOW: The gym has a modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system that replaces the air several times per hour, which is a high rate for a space the gym’s size. Additionally, there are HEPA filters placed strategically around the testing areas. According to the CDC, “HEPA filters are no less than 99.97% efficient at capturing human-generated viral particles associated with SARS-CoV-2.”
  • ABILITY TO CLEAN: Most of the gym’s surfaces are hard, which allows them to be effectively cleaned and disinfected. Cleaning protocols designed specifically for this space include hourly disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. In addition, every evening the site will undergo a more extensive cleaning with electrostatic fogging and disinfectants that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. This level of cleaning takes hours and is similar to what is done after a confirmed COVID-19 case.

“The measures we have been taking have a proven track record of effectiveness at our testing center,” said Derek Leonard, facilities project manager for OPP and a member of the COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC) team. “There hasn’t been a single report of a transmission occurring at a testing site.”

The team that designed these protections went back and studied all of the University’s previous testing sites and protocols to create the safest possible site. “This facility really allows us to scale up these well-tested health and safety protocols to meet the demand of testing the entire student population within this two-week period,” said Jim Crandall, director of Environmental Health and Safety. “It maximizes the ventilation and engineering controls that this space provides.”

The same principals were used to develop campus-specific playbooks to address the health and safety precautions scaled for the volume of testing for each campus.

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