Nobody needs to be told that things on campus – or anywhere, really – look a little different now. In fact, everything looks a little different through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic. But, it’s clear that some things haven’t changed when you focus on the people on campus who are working so hard to keep our community safe.
Take, for example, Laura Lee Worrell. She’s the person behind the plexiglass barriers recently installed throughout CofC offices.
A building and equipment maintenance project manager in Facilities Management, Worrell typically concentrates on the College’s residence hall repairs and classroom refreshes during the summer. But, as we know, this hasn’t been your typical summer, and this year Worrell was tasked with overseeing the procurement and installation of the plexiglass sneeze guards that are now at public-facing desks and counters across campus.
“It’s definitely a little different from what I’m used to,” she says, noting that her other projects this summer have involved dorm room refreshes, structural repairs to the Kelly House and adding a new fire alarm system and 23 new bedrooms to 10 and 20 Warren. “We’ve all been really busy with the usual work and then all the modifications to campus so that we can maintain safety protocols and social distancing. It’s been a learning experience, for sure.”
One thing Worrell hadn’t anticipated about the plexiglass shields was how different each one would need to be.
“Just because there are so many different applications around campus and so many different needs from department to department, only about 50 percent were standard sized,” she says. “I knew there would be some special circumstances, but those special circumstances ended up being 50 percent!”
Of course, Worrell isn’t the only one who has faced special circumstances that make things look “a little different” lately.
“We are all doing our part in creating a safe environment – the sneeze guards are just one little piece of it,” says Worrell. “And we’re relying on the community to do its part, too. It’s got to be a whole community effort, obviously, to help keep everybody safe. We will all have to work together.”
And that means wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing – even in locations that have the plexiglass shields.
“The sneeze guards are intended only as an additional safeguard, an added precaution for spaces that interact with the public – places like the dining halls, Parking Services, the check-in/security desks at large residence halls, Disability Services, Financial Aid, Admissions, the library,” she explains. “The hope is to promote safety for those visiting the counters and those sitting behind them. We are trying to keep the sneeze guard panels directed toward the location with the most public interaction.
“Much of this public interaction will consist of ‘training’ visitors and requesting them to conduct business in front of the sneeze guard area for your and their protection,” she continues. “We can’t create a plexiglass bubble around everyone, so it’s going be those standing behind the desks who will have to retrain the people to stand in front of the plexiglass. It’s just a cultural thing we have to get used to during these times.”
After all, it’s just one of the many things that looks a little different right now.