To provide a clean and safe atmosphere for our students, faculty and staff, the Cornell Building Care staff uses only Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved disinfectants and industry best practices on an ongoing daily basis in our buildings. We also monitor the EPA, CDC and public health organizations and follow any new cleaning recommendations they have related to the virus.
- Facilities and Campus Services COVID-19 Resources
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Frequently Asked Questions
- COVID-19 Guidance for Facilities Management Staff
- Hierarchy of Controls for Facilities Restart (PDF)
- COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls
- Facilities Start-up Checklist (PDF)
- Campus Start-up Water Distribution SOP
- Ithaca Campus Building Care Cleaning Procedure
- Restart Cleaning Procedure
- Health and Safety Plan for Construction Contractors (PDF)
Products & Procedures
How long is SARS-CoV-2 viable on surfaces?
The virus that causes COVID-19 has a limited life span outside the human body. Under laboratory conditions SARS-CoV-2 is more stable on smooth surfaces. The virus is greatly reduced after 72 hours.
Current literature indicates that there is:
- No viable virus after three hours on tissue or printing paper.
- No viable virus after four hours on copper surfaces.
- No viable virus after 24 hours on cardboard surfaces.
- No viable virus after two days on wood or cloth*.
- No viable virus after four days on banknotes or glass.
- No viable virus after seven days on plastic or stainless steel.
*The article does not discuss what the cloth is, and composition — material or weight — may play a role.
Which disinfectants kill COVID-19?
The EPA-Registered Disinfectants from List N meet the EPA's criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Which surfaces need to be disinfected and how frequently should disinfection occur?
Disinfect high touch surfaces in your personal and shared workspaces frequently, at a minimum daily. Disinfect shared equipment before and after use.
High touch surfaces include door handles/knobs, drawers, cabinet handles, chair backs, chair arms, refrigerator handles, pens, light switches, desk and cellphones, keyboards, mice, remotes, monitors, etc.
What is the recommended practice for disinfecting surfaces?
When using an EPA-registered disinfectant from List N, follow the label directions for safe, effective use. Check "use sites" and "surface types" to see where you can use the product. Read the "precautionary statements." Wash the surface with soap and water if the directions mention pre-cleaning or if the surface is visibly dirty. Wear gloves when applying disinfectant and follow the dwell time (contact time), which is the amount of time the surface should be visibly wet, to ensure the product is effective. Discard disposable gloves after each cleaning and wash hands after removing gloves.
What hand sanitizers are unsafe for use and have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration?
Hand sanitizers that contain methanol (aka wood alcohol) are unsafe for use due to its toxic effects when absorbed through the skin or ingested. Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. There are no hand sanitizers approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so do not use products that are fraudulently marketed as “FDA-approved.” A list of hand sanitizers that have been tested and known to contain methanol, labeled to contain methanol, or recalled by the manufacturer or distributor can be found on the FDA website.
Centrally procured products are being vetted prior to purchase; however, if you find a recalled product in your facility, discontinue use immediately and dispose of the product in the trash. If you have a large volume of stock contact EHS at AskEHS@cornell.edu.
How is the university cleaning and disinfecting buildings across campus?
To provide a clean and safe atmosphere for our students, faculty and staff, Cornell Building Care staff uses only Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved disinfectants and industry best practices on an ongoing daily basis in our buildings. We also monitor the EPA, CDC and public health organizations and follow any new cleaning recommendations they have related to the virus.
We have enhanced our cleaning regimen whereby high touch point areas, such as door handles, light switches, and tables, are disinfected twice a day. Cleaning is performed using a cleaning agent approved by the EPA to kill SARS-COV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There are also dedicated isolation and quarantine rooms on campus with a small, dedicated team of staff that are fully trained to clean and disinfect these rooms after any use, along with following CDC protocols to ensure that all materials that leave these areas are properly disposed of without endangering the welfare of others.
How will the university clean and disinfect an area exposed to COVID-19?
Category 3 Cleaning Protocol is activated upon notification from EHS or the Office of Emergency Management to Cornell Building Care that a case of COVID- 19 has been confirmed for a Cornell employee, student or contractor who performs work in a Cornell-owned or leased facility or space. If the space has not been occupied for seven days or more, disinfection actions by Building Care are not required, based on virus stability, and will not be performed.
How can I disinfect my workplace?
The university has implemented an enhanced cleaning frequency to clean and disinfect common areas and commonly touched surfaces in Cornell buildings; they are being cleaned at least once daily, five days a week by our custodial staff. Please assist us in maintaining a healthy environment by cleaning objects in your personal and shared workspaces throughout the day. Surfaces to clean include door handles and knobs, keyboards/mice, monitors, desktops, remotes, light switches, desk and cellphones, shared workstations, chair arms, etc.
- Use EPA-approved List N cleaning products (such as Lysol and Clorox wipes). Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning products.
- Where surfaces are visibly dirty, clean with soap and water prior to disinfection.
- After cleaning, dispose of used cleaning materials, and immediately wash hands.
- Discard items used for cleaning, such as disposable towels, in trash cans.
- Disinfect frequently, at a minimum daily.
How can students help with sanitizing classrooms?
In addition to scheduled cleanings by Building Care staff, self-service disinfectant supplies have been provided for students’ use. Disinfectant bottles are provided based on a ratio of eight students per bottle. The following procedures are recommended:
- Students use the disinfectants and towels provided to sanitize classroom surfaces.
- One student sprays multiple towels for others to use.
- Students use their moistened towel to wipe the bottle and spray trigger after use.
- Students use hand sanitizer to clean their hands after touching the spray bottle.
At the end of class students can wipe their seats and writing surfaces. Students may also arrive a few minutes early if they would like to clean before class.
The inventory of cleaning supplies is routinely checked; however, faculty can also request more cleaning supplies by submitting a maintenance request.
How can we promote effective handwashing in labs and offices?
Wash hands before eating, after using the restroom, after coughing or sneezing, after touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched, and before touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Additional hand washing guidance, including posters to promote effective handwashing, is available on the CDC website.
How is the university evaluating and adjusting its HVAC systems?
Facilities and Campus Services has evaluated and improved facility HVAC systems following CDC recommendations. We examine the mechanical systems at the builing/facility level to ensure that we are delivering plenty of fresh outdoor air to all building spaces served by these systems while also upgrading filtration when possible. If you feel that a certain location in your building is not receiving sufficient ventilation, please speak to your facility manager. Detailed information about modifications to HVAC systems, ventilation and air quality is available in Environmental Health & Safety HVAC FAQs.
How do I request, or report a problem with, a hand sanitizer station?
Who can I ask about classroom setup, building signage or water and ventilation?
Contact your facility's Building Coordinator. If you don't know the coordinator for your building, visit the Facilities website and search for the building name, then click on "Building Coordinators."
Mail and Packages
Do I need to disinfect mail or other packages before handling them?
Per current CDC guidance, there is a very low risk of spreading COVID-19 through products or packaging that have been shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Additionally, recent data indicates that the virus that causes COVID-19 is unlikely to remain viable on cardboard surfaces after 24 hours.
To protect yourself and others, refrain from touching your face, mouth or eyes while handling mail and other shipments, wash your hands after performing such operations, practice physical distancing and stay home if you are feeling ill.
How often are TCAT buses cleaned and disinfected?
TCAT is taking as many precautions as possible to protect its riders and employees during the pandemic, and has provided details about their procedures on their COVID-19 webpage.