OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET GUEST WRITER
Over the past year maintenance staff at Wartburg struggled to keep up with the demands brought on by COVID-19.
The maintenance department cleans, sanitizes, repairs, and takes care of plumbing, electrical work, and groundskeeping, along with other tasks. Each of these areas has been impacted by the pandemic, with cleaning and sanitation taking the biggest hits.
“Pretty much everyone is trying to be more sanitary with the coronavirus, and Wartburg is going along with that,” said Frankie Voyek, a maintenance worker at Wartburg. “Having things clean and sanitized is, I think, a big part of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.”
When the virus struck Iowa in March 2020 the maintenance team was forced to change their procedures, routines, and cleaning supplies. Several new policies were implemented to improve the sterility of spaces.
Disinfectant wipes were added to all classrooms for use between classes. The types of sanitizing solutions that maintenance uses were adjusted. More daily cleanings were scheduled, particularly in areas like bathrooms, lounges, and other community spaces where germs could easily build up.
“COVID-19 has changed the procedures that we utilize to ensure all areas are given the proper attention,” said Keith Strand, the Director of Maintenance and Cleaning.
High-touch areas, such as doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons have received special focus when it comes to sanitizing. Maintenance switched to a sanitizer with a higher acid concentration so that a larger range of germs are killed with each cleaning.
“There has been a lot of focus and attention put on those areas where people can pass on germs and things like the coronavirus,” said Voyek. “If that means going over those areas a few times per day and upping the chemicals that we use, that’s what we will do.”
The increased focus on sanitization has not gone unnoticed by students.
“I think that the buckets of wipes and more cleanings are good ideas,” said Shaukat Ibrahim, a second-year student. “Those types of things help keep us healthy.”
Along with changes to cleaning procedures and other campus-wide adjustments came several challenges for the maintenance staff.
There has been more trash to deal with due to the addition of takeout containers in the Mensa and increased use of to-go eating solutions around campus. Quarantine and isolation protocols have also become an issue for maintenance.
“Our staff members have as well,” said Strand.
Because of this, the maintenance department enlisted the help of off-campus contract services to ensure that all necessary work can get done.
The expense of cleaning supplies has proved to be another challenge.
“Though we have never run out of supplies, it has become more difficult to ensure we have all the supplies we need,” said Strand. “Cost on some supplies have doubled and in some cases increased more.”
The maintenance team has been able to push through to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“After a year of this pandemic, I feel like now we can see maybe getting back to normal soon,” said Voyek. “There’s vaccines and less people are getting quarantined. All the attention on sanitizing and being very clean maybe won’t be around much longer.”
The end may be in sight, but that does not mean that everything is back to how it was before the pandemic just yet. COVID protocols and increased sanitizing guidelines are still in place.
“The work maintenance does is important,” said Ibrahim. “It’s work that’s probably not acknowledged very often.”