Campus custodians at the front lines of the fight against COVID-19

Whether they are vacuuming resident hallways or wiping down classrooms, the members of the Augustana custodial staff have been putting in extra hours to ensure student safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

East Hall custodian and supervisor for East and Granskou halls Dan Cordie said the custodial staff was reduced to a skeleton crew when students moved out in the middle of the spring semester. Since there were hardly any students to clean up after for, janitors began summer deep-cleaning projects earlier than they normally would have.

“Once it was decided that [students] wouldn’t be coming back the week after spring break, we started doing our detailed cleaning,” Cordie said. “That’s normal stuff that we don’t get to do when students are here, like shampooing carpets.”

Custodians were already going above and beyond prior to the pandemic, but they now have extra cleaning steps to take when it comes to using cleaning supplies.

Hillyard, Augustana’s cleaning supplier, informed the staff about a new chemical cleaner called QT3 that had the green seal to assure safety. The janitorial staff has been using the chemical agent since early March when the virus took hold. Cordie said the chemical is much more expensive and was replaced with Vindicator #6, which is just as effective but with a ten-minute contact condition attached.

Tuve and Stavig supervisor Lisa Moeller was in charge of ordering the sanitation equipment for campus buildings. During the sanitizer shortage in the spring, Moeller had a unique problem. She was able to acquire hand sanitizer, however, the dispensers that have become ubiquitous around campus were on backorder. 

Moeller was also tasked with preparing the campus for students in the fall. 

“We missed the presence of the students because they really give this place energy,” said  Moeller.

The janitorial staff has been navigating coronavirus regulations by wearing masks and gloves. Janitors have been briefed on a number of safety protocols to ensure that they don’t transmit or contract the virus.

“You know to wash your hands, take six feet precautions, wear a mask, do what you can do and see what happens,” Grankou custodian Gwen Van Veldhuizen said.  

Van Veldhuizen is not necessarily concerned about contracting the virus. However, she is careful about taking precautions because she does not want to risk bringing the virus home. Much like her coworkers, Van Veldhuizen worked extra shifts over the summer since they are understaffed. 

In addition to omnipresent COVID-19 concerns, janitors are taking on grounds crew duties. Due to budget reductions, the grounds crew that normally took care of landscaping and campus beautification was cut. Cordie said some of the groundskeeping responsibilities of mowing the lawn were taken care of by Madison Lawn Care, a landscaping company hired by the university. The custodial staff has been taking on some tasks, such as taking care of trash blowing around, raking leaves and shoveling snow.

The Augustana janitorial staff has always served students to the best of their abilities but now in the midst of the pandemic, janitors are at the forefront of protecting the Augustana community.

“Augie has a lot of history and in the community there are a lot of people who love this campus.” Cordie said. “It’s just trying to make it work and trying to defeat [COVID-19] and not get beat.”

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