The Daily Gamecock

Custodial staff adapt to new sanitation protocols

A member of the USC custodial staff cleans a seat in Russell House.
A member of the USC custodial staff cleans a seat in Russell House.

The "front line" of the pandemic usually evokes images of doctors and nurses in hospitals, but there's an invisible front line that fights the virus within the walls of USC's campus buildings — the custodial staff.

Every day, the staff cleans about 66,000 square feet of academic and administrative buildings on campus, two and a half times the industry standard. These staff members are the ones implementing the university’s COVID-19 sanitation protocols, with some working overtime to do so.

“It’s strange, but, you know, we have to do it in order for [the pandemic] to get better,” said Serena Profit, a supervisor for utility on the first floor of Russell House. 

Along with new procedures for cleaning tables and chairs, custodians can no longer use unsanitized rags on tables. Profit said they have to use sanitized packs, which have facilitated the cleaning process by placing everything needed to sanitize in one pack.

Profit said even with the coronavirus prevention protocol, work is "a little less hectic," with less student traffic due to online classes. Other custodians have worked overtime, helping to keep everything clean.

"This is my 12th day straight," said Beverly Jacobs, who has worked on the custodial staff at Russell House for two years. 

Jacobs works overtime on weekends to sanitize tables, which are cleaned at least every 30 minutes in the student union. She said she receives overtime pay from the university.  

Profit said the university is doing all the right things to keep the students safe and has custodial staff cleaning everything. 

"If [students] look at it, we gotta wipe it off," Profit said.

Darrell Benjamin said his job has “changed tremendously” this year. Even with the shortage of in-person classes, Benjamin said the amount of cleaning has increased. 

“I clean the bathroom. I don’t care if it’s just one person that goes in there. I go right behind them and sanitize everything, I don’t care what. Even if I use it, I sanitize it,” Benjamin, who works in the Darla Moore School of Business, said. 

When prepping for students’ return this summer, Benjamin was cleaning "bathrooms, classrooms, doorknobs — everything, constantly."

Charcole McNeill has only been working in environmental and custodial services at the university since July. She was brought on through a temporary service specifically because of the higher demand for sanitation staff during preparation for the return of the student body. 

McNeill said she cleans all kinds of objects around Thomas Cooper Library throughout the day with disinfectant spray. 

“I always try to make sure I wipe down all the doorknob handles, elevator buttons, the water fountain ... and where you slide your card and, of course, the restrooms," McNeill said.

Clad in a mask and gloves, Benjamin said the university has provided adequate personal protective equipment for him and his fellow custodians. 

“I feel safe, and I want everybody else to feel safe, 'cause if I don't feel safe, they don't feel safe,” Benjamin said.

Along with all the other things that are different this semester, Benjamin said he also misses seeing a lot of students around the business school. 

“I want all this stuff to be over. So, I want everyone to be safe and, with these little frat parties, please don’t go to them without — you know, you can have fun with wearing a mask,” Benjamin said.

Profit said she is concerned about bringing the virus home to her family.  

“Just please, I know it’s frustrating, but please wear your mask. It's for my safety and yours, too," Profit said.