20 Aug UICUF Position on Ventilation
- Ventilation Guidelines: It is the responsibility of employers to provide safe working environments, and the CDC cites proper ventilation as a major facet of COVID safety indoors. UIC has conducted a variety of airflow assessments, and offers the use of HEPA filters for rooms that otherwise experience insufficient air circulation.
- Requesting HEPA Filters: UICUF encourages faculty to report conditions they feel are unsafe, and to request HEPA filters where appropriate. UICUF will support and advocate for faculty requesting additional measures regarding air filtration.
This is the fourth and final installment in our series of policy positions on critical elements of UIC’s fall reopening plans. We have already covered remote/alternate work accommodations, masking and distancing policies, and academic freedom and IP rights in prior communications. With each of these policy statements, we aim to share and clarify existing university policies as they stand today, describe the union’s stance relative to these policies, and offer direct guidance to faculty for navigating day-to-day with regard to these policies.
Today, we are discussing ventilation and airflow issues that are relevant to COVID safety as we are seeing a surge in Delta variant cases. As before, we strongly believe that the best defense against COVID in all its forms is to get vaccinated ASAP. Vaccination protects not only the individual, but our entire community from the worst effects of the virus. However, appropriate ventilation and airflow is also a major factor in mitigating the spread of COVID, and it is our position that UIC bears a responsibility to address airflow issues wherever they are identified.
Current Policy: The Illinois Board of Higher Education states that “IHEs should continue routine cleaning of high-touch surfaces and shared objects and maintaining improved ventilation in accordance with CDC recommendations.”
The CDC states the following: SARS-CoV-2 viral particles spread between people more readily indoors than outdoors. Indoors, the concentration of viral particles is often higher than outdoors, where even a light wind can rapidly reduce concentrations. When indoors, ventilation mitigation strategies can help reduce viral particle concentration. The lower the concentration, the less likely viral particles can be inhaled into the lungs (potentially lowering the inhaled dose); contact eyes, nose, and mouth; or fall out of the air to accumulate on surfaces. Protective ventilation practices and interventions can reduce the airborne concentrations and reduce the overall viral dose to occupants.
The CDC recommends a “layered approach” that uses different proactive ventilation practices and interventions. This includes using “portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning” which UIC has been using in rooms that did not meet American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) ventilation requirements (as of January 2021). Details of the most recent ventilation assessment of 88 UIC buildings can be found here. Note that these assessments do not include offices.
UICUF Position: As per the UIC plans issued prior to the IBHE guidance, which recommends following CDC guidance for “maintaining improved ventilation”, UIC should continue to monitor air ventilation rates and CO2 levels in all classrooms. Special attention should be given to 1) classrooms with high occupancy and usage levels based on number of classes per day, 2) any classroom with no windows or windows that do not open, and 3) all classrooms that did not meet ASHRAE requirements in previous testing (note some classrooms may fall in more than one of these categories). Monitoring should take place during fully allowed occupancy.
Data from monitoring as well as ventilation assessments for all classrooms should be made available in a timely manner via a publicly accessed website.
UIC should provide upon request assessment of air quality in faculty offices and appropriate air filter devices if warranted to meet established requirements.
Guidance to Faculty: Faculty should feel empowered to report to facilities management any concerns about ventilation and airflow, and to request a filtration system where necessary. Below are specific links and information that can be attained per UIC communication to faculty August 19, 2021.
Additional Information and Contact Information:
- For an explanation of the ventilation assessment process, please refer to the link: https://fmweb.uic.edu/FMGeneralPages/Home/VentilationAssessment
- Additional questions or concerns about temperature should be submitted as a Service Request through FMWeb: https://fm.uic.edu/request-service/
- Contact EHSO for air quality monitoring through email@example.com
We encourage faculty to share any report or request for information you make with the union. UICUF stands ready to assist and advocate for you should your situation not be remedied promptly.
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