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Reopening Northeastern

Hygiene and Cleaning Protocols



This protocol outlines the university’s enhanced hygiene and cleaning expectations for employees, students, vendors and visitors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Note:  vendors and visitors must be approved for presence on campus.

This protocol has been developed based upon guidance from the CDC and OSHA, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and outlines daily personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing expectations while on campus.  This protocol is subject to modification and updating based upon evolving federal, state and local health and safety guidance.

The Northeastern facilities team sanitize and clean the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex on May 28, 2020. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Daily Hygiene


Washing your hands thoroughly will support the community in staying safe and healthy. Hands must be washed with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds, especially and immediately after the following:

  • Entering or exiting a public place
  • Blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or touching your face

If warm water and soap are not available, you may use a hand sanitizer containing a minimum of 60% alcohol content. When applying hand sanitizer, cover the entire surface of the hands, and rub them together until dry. Once your hands are clean, remember to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Coughing and sneezing

If you are in a private setting and are not wearing a face covering or mask, please remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or use the inside of your elbow, when you cough or sneeze. Afterward, immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, please use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Workspace disinfection

In addition to enhanced cleaning, everyone is encouraged to wipe down commonly used surfaces in conference rooms and common areas. If you have touched surfaces in conference rooms, common areas, or other work spaces, wipe down the surfaces with cleaning products available in the space.  Cleaning products should remain in their designated areas.

Everyone should use disinfecting cloths provided in the work environment to wipe down frequently touched surfaces at their workspaces upon arrival and prior to departure from campus.


Capacity in elevators will be directed in accordance with posted signage.  Upon departing the elevator, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.


To limit potential transmission of the virus, wash your hands before and after eating, and wipe down all common surfaces—including table, chairs, refrigerator handles, and coffee machines— with disinfectant or disinfectant cloths.

COVID-19 Campus Face Covering Protocol

Consistent with the latest federal, state and local guidance related to COVID-19, Northeastern requires employees, students, vendors and visitors to wear face coverings/masks while they are in common spaces even if healthy distancing can be maintained, common gathering areas, shared workspaces, shared academic spaces, or when interacting face to face with others.  Masks are not required outdoors on campus, with the exception of large outdoor events and any situations where healthy distancing can’t be maintained. Note:  All visitors and vendors must be approved for presence on campus.

This protocol may be modified and updated from time to time in accordance with ongoing guidance from public health authorities. For purposes of this protocol, the term face covering includes cloth coverings and/or masks that fully cover the nose and mouth.


Mandatory for all members of the Northeastern community.


Whether home-made or commercially manufactured, cloth masks help contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions. They should only be worn for one day, and then properly laundered before reuse.


Commercially manufactured disposable masks are designed to contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions and should be thrown out after single use.

Generally reserved for healthcare workers and workspaces with task-specific hazards.

Medical-grade surgical

These FDA-approved medical-grade surgical mask protects users from larger splashes of liquid and contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions.

N-95 respirator

Protect against airborne particles and aerosols and contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions.


Face Covering Generally

At this time, all faculty, staff and students coming to campus are expected to have their own face covering that is large enough to cover their noses and mouths.

Employees who need specialized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as medical-grade masks to perform their work will receive PPE from the university.  Face coverings will be available for vendors and visitors who do not have their own face covering.  Instructions on where to pick up face coverings will be provided as that information is available.

Note that most face coverings are not designed to filter COVID-19 particles or protect from infection, but are instead intended to prevent those wearing the face covering from potentially spreading COVID-19 to others or surrounding surfaces.

Should individuals choose to make their own face coverings, the CDC has provided guidance on how to make a suitable face covering at home:

Face Covering Requirements and Exclusions

While on campus, employees, students, vendors and visitors must wear face coverings while they are in common spaces even if healthy distancing can be maintained, common gathering areas, shared workspaces, shared academic spaces, or when interacting face to face with others.  Masks are not required outdoors on campus, with the exception of large outdoor events and any situations where healthy distancing can’t be maintained. Face coverings are not intended to replace other measures for preventing illness, including maintaining healthy distancing of more than 6 feet of distance from other people; washing hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth; and staying home when sick.  Please consult the university’s Protocol on Social Distancing and Protocol on Campus Hygiene for additional information.

Individuals who have a medical condition that prevents them from using a face covering should contact Shana Feggins in Human Resources Management:

Individuals may remove their face coverings when eating or drinking, and to facilitate communication with sign language as necessary, provided healthy distancing is maintained.  Employees should also remove their masks if they cannot safely perform their work while wearing a face covering (for example, while using machinery or equipment that could entangle the mask).  Employees should obtain prior approval from their supervisor before working in a public or common space without wearing a mask.

How to Properly Wear and Take Care of Face Coverings

Individuals are responsible for appropriately wearing and caring for their face coverings.

Steps for Wearing Face Coverings

Cloth masks should fit snugly, but comfortably, against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, and allow for breathing and seeing without restriction or impairment.  Instructions on how to properly wear a face covering have been published by the CDC and can be found here.

Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before affixing a face covering.  Try to touch the inside and outside of the face covering as little as possible.  The face covering should fit snuggly and completely over the mouth and nose, but it should not impair breathing or vision.  Wash hands after applying the face covering.  Once the face covering is in place, do not touch the outside or slip fingers under it (to scratch nose or to adjust, e.g.).  Wash hands or use hand sanitizer after inadvertently touching the face covering.

Removing Face Coverings

To safely remove the face covering: first wash hands or use hand sanitizer.  Avoid touching the outside or inside of the mask as much as possible.  Remove it by using the ties and gently pull away from your face.  Do not shake it.  Secure it safely and in a manner that limits exposure.

Washing Face Coverings

Single use face coverings must be disposed of properly and immediately in a face covering/PPE disposal receptacle.  Washable multi-use face coverings must be regularly washed to remain effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.  Launder face coverings by gently placing in washing machine (using ties and touching the face mask as little as possible) and using the hottest water temperature possible for the material used OR wash by hand in a sink after soaking in hot, soapy water.

COVID-19 Campus Healthy Distancing Protocol

The purpose of this protocol is to promote the health, safety and well-being of Northeastern community members by limiting human to human contact on campus to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, and other relevant federal, state, and local guidelines, the university is requiring employees, students, vendors and visitors to practice healthy distancing by remaining at least six feet apart at all times, to the greatest extent possible.

To limit contact with others, in-person meetings and gatherings are discouraged. If meeting or gathering in person is unavoidable, the number of attendees should be limited as much as possible, and the gathering should be held in a space that allows for attendees to be at least six feet apart. Everyone should avoid handshaking.

Employees, students, vendors and visitors are required to practice healthy distancing in all common areas, work spaces, break rooms and elevators. Signage, markers, or other visual cues will be posted and utilized within university buildings to indicate the maximum capacity in all elevators and common areas.

Prior to students and employees returning to campus, workspaces and classrooms will be designed and altered as necessary, and planning will be in place, to support healthy distancing.

Other measures will be taken to align with healthy distancing in accordance with this protocol and to reduce the number of people in workspaces and common spaces at the same time, including staggered shifts, flexible work schedules and other measures as appropriate for different Colleges, departments and work and study areas across the university.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocol

Northeastern is committed to providing safe, clean and sanitized spaces across campus for all students, employees, visitors and vendors.  This protocol is designed to outline the university’s enhanced cleaning and sanitizing expectations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This protocol has been developed based upon guidance from the CDC and OSHA, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and outlines the requirements for cleaning and sanitizing university buildings, departments, workspaces and common areas.  This policy is subject to modification and updating based upon evolving federal, state and local health and safety guidance.

Facilities staff members and vendors will disinfect and clean offices and workstations, common areas and restrooms on a frequent, recurring basis as well as on demand as needed in accordance with the procedures outlined below. Facilities will also maintain hand sanitizer stations at major building entrances, offices and lab suites, and other high-traffic areas.

Personal Protection Equipment: Individuals performing any cleaning and disinfecting outlined below must wear masks and disposable gloves that are removed and disposed of immediately after cleaning and disinfecting.

Buildings closed and unoccupied for more than seven (7) days

Routine cleaning prior to reopening. No need to disinfect.

Buildings that have been open and occupied within seven (7) days

The cleaning procedure below should be followed for buildings, departments, and workspaces that have been opened and occupied within seven (7) days.

1. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces that are hard and non-porous

Includes: tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks, paper towel dispensers, touch screens, vending machines, ATM machines.

  1. Clean the surfaces with soap and water.
  2. Disinfect with EPA approved disinfectant.
  3. If no EPA approved disinfectant is readily available, then use 1/3 cup bleach added to 1 gallon of water or 70% alcohol solutions.
  4. Repeat daily while space is in use.

2. Cleaning and disinfecting high traffic/frequently touched surfaces that are soft and porous

Includes: carpet, area rugs, cushions, pillows, soft seating.

  1. Facilities will work in conjunction with areas/departments to remove soft, porous items like rugs, cushions, or pillows that can be removed and stored. Store until further guidance.
  2. For items that cannot be removed:
    1. Clean/launder surfaces at warmest possible temperatures.
    2. Disinfect with EPA approved disinfectant if surface is frequently touched.
    3. Repeat daily while space is in use.

Buildings or office spaces in which an employee has been present within seven (7) days of reporting (1) exposure to COVID-19, (2) exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or (3) being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The below procedure should be followed if the above applies within the last seven (7) days.

  • If possible, vacate and close off areas where the employee spent significant time for at least 24 hours, including offices, bathrooms, and common areas.
  • After 24 hours, clean and disinfect space:
    • Open external windows and doors to increase air circulation.
    • Clean surfaces with soap and water.
    • Disinfect surfaces with disinfectant appropriate for the surface (see Section II for details regarding porous and nonporous surfaces).



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