USC has implemented a number of COVID-19 safety initiatives across campus, which has led to an increased demand for cleaning supplies and other COVID-19 personal protective equipment.
The Future Planning Group began making preparations for the safe return of students, faculty and staff amid the coronavirus pandemic in late March last year. This includes deciding where to put cleaning supplies, such as wipes and hand sanitizers.
“We all got together and just kind of walked out through campus, and most of us have been here for years. We know the high throughput areas, and heavy traffic areas, and just used our logistical and campus knowledge of what we know,” Michael Crowley, a member of the Risk Management/Public Health Safety Committee, said.
One of the initial challenges the university ran into gathering supplies was the "national shortage of all supplies" that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic, according to Deborah Beck, the assistant vice president of Health and Wellness.
"We, fortunately, had enough supplies here at the health center that would have kept us going for weeks into the pandemic; but typically, what we want to do is to make sure that we have enough supplies to last at least 30 days," Beck said. "Right now, there's really not a problem with our supply chain."
The Risk Management/Public Health Safety Committee and Public Health/Medical Committee are two of the eight standing committees that form the Future Planning Group.
Over the summer, the university set up hand-sanitizing dispensers and hand-washing stations across campus.
"All that stuff is on a routine checklist that we built for everything that's supposed to be checked daily," Crowley said.
Crowley also said they’ve had to overhaul their cleaning policy for the whole university to fit the guidelines put out by the CDC and OSHA. Custodial Services now have to maintain “high touch” surfaces in common areas on top of its regular cleaning requirements. There is also a cleaning checklist for each type of room across campus that must be followed.
USC’s Purchasing Department is in charge of meeting the high demand for cleaning supplies and other coronavirus personal protective equipment across the university.
According to Clarissa Clark, director of purchasing, the university receives coronavirus supply orders almost daily.
“It depends on what we have ordered; we have lots of PPE COVID supplies. So what I have is a daily review of where we are in inventory, and [I] make sure I maintain a certain stock level,” Clark said.
The university has been receiving its personal protective equipment supplies from various vendors. It has also received emails from people across the country asking how they can help, according to Clark.
“We do try to stay local, we try to use our small woman-owned and minority businesses when we can. We have some national vendors that we have on state contract; that has been instrumental in helping us maintain the levels that we need,” Clark said.
Clark also said the university made sure to sign around 100 fixed-price contracts, meaning vendors would not be able to raise prices on supplies if a second wave hit.
In terms of personal protective equipment distributions, the university decided to allocate one mask per person, according to Clark. Departments were given an initial box of supplies early in the spring of last year to start and additional needs were met as they arose.
Clark said she wanted students to feel assured that the university has an "adequate stock" of supplies already.
“We're well ahead of a lot of the other state agencies and universities, just to make sure that everyone is safe, and I don't anticipate any type of issues. All of the staff have worked together to make sure that we have what we need for the university," Clark said.