Almost everybody left campus in the spring after University officials ordered students, faculty, and staff to evacuate as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country. But there were some who needed to stay. Custodians and building managers kept coming in to make sure offices, classrooms, and other facilities remained operational, and key administrative staff were needed to set up guidelines, with the help of University scientists and experts, to ensure campus would be safe to reoccupy in fall.
Maintenance workers spent weeks disinfecting buildings, closing down common areas, and removing furniture as part of a plan to de-densify Houses and labs. Plumbers installed touchless faucets and hand sanitizer dispensers across campus, and heating and air conditioning mechanics installed special filters to improve indoor air quality while some administrative staffers worked the phones and computers to purchase face masks, protective equipment, and COVID-19 test kits.
All had essential tasks to perform. After the University reopened, others assumed jobs on the front lines. Cooks began preparing nutritious and healthy meals for around 1,600 students on campus, most of them first-years. Mail carriers added delivering masks and test kits to their duties. Custodians slammed into high gear to keep heavily trafficked areas and surfaces disinfected.
The Gazette interviewed eight frontline workers. The interviews were conducted between August and October and have been condensed and edited.