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GC Health and Safety Walkthrough

The following email went out to GC chapter members on August 12th. Please see this update from August 13th for updates on the GC reopening.

Dear colleagues,
As you know, the PSC-GC chapter conducted two pre-occupancy health and safety walkthroughs of the Graduate Center campus on July 28 from 1-4pm, and on August 3 from 1-3pm.
Many of you helped us plan these walkthroughs by identifying specific areas of concern within the building, including rooms and common spaces. We visited all of these areas, and we were able to put questions to representatives of the Graduate Center administration and building engineers throughout both walkthroughs.
The main takeaway is that the Graduate Center’s HVAC system has the capacity to be run at levels that maximize ventilation to reduce transmission on campus, but it is not clear that all of the interventions recommended by the CDC have been made. We are concerned that the system will not be run at full occupancy for all areas in an effort to reduce costs. We encourage you to contact your supervisor to make sure the HVAC will be operating at full capacity at your assigned workspace during your shift.
All should be aware that stairwells are unventilated; continue to wear masks when using and avoid congregating in them. Also, each restroom has an unventilated vestibule. We recommend keeping the inner door open. The building’s ventilation relies on a carefully calibrated HVAC system and windows should remain closed for it to function properly.
Although we did not encounter anything severe enough to induce panic, we did find several issues that we have since raised with the Graduate Center administration. As this brief document illustrates, some of these issues are area-specific. Others, however, involve bigger questions, particularly about enforcing occupancy limits. The fact that neither the Graduate Center nor CUNY Central have yet provided clear guidance on this question is highly concerning.
Along these lines, we are concerned about the lack of controls in place to restrict occupancy in shared spaces. The GC seems to be placing the onus on department staff to enforce safety protocols. Many workspaces can’t be reconfigured, so the key will be making sure that people in cubicles or shared offices don’t have overlapping shifts. We were told that it will be up to supervisors to ensure distancing via work schedules, with no clear mechanism for enforcing. If your department has not coordinated your on-site schedules to avoid overlapping, contact us.
Finally, we did visit classrooms that will be used for in-person classes this fall and all were well-ventilated, though absent any information on planned occupancy for each room we were limited in our evaluation of the spaces.
The Graduate Center has posted its Fall 2021 reopening plan; we are told that the building will open in Phase 2 (40% occupancy) with “no physical distancing requirement unless otherwise posted.” Proof of vaccination or negative test result within 7 days will be required for entrance. Onsite testing will be available in the James Gallery. Masks are required in public areas and shared spaces.
We encourage you to continue coming to us with any ongoing concerns about reopening and health and safety. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we are vigilant, focused, and organized.
In solidarity,
The PSC-GC Health and Safety Committee

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