Did You Know? COVID-19 Cleaning Means Millions in Extra Spending for NC State, App State

Although most universities have moved classes online since the spring, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to ensure that the campus facilities still open are kept clean and safe for use.

North Carolina State University has shuttered classrooms, but many buildings such as the Talley Student Union and the recreation center remain open, and many athletes are still practicing on campus. Appalachian State University has stayed open throughout the pandemic, despite criticism.

While students may feel let down by their schools, higher ed leaders are feeling the financial burden from COVID-19 spending for cleaning and sanitizing.

A Martin Center investigation found that App State has spent $835,166 on COVID-related cleaning, according to public records. NC State initially spent $43,000 in august on hotel rooms for student housing, then $860,000 on face masks and $5.2 million to “operate campus, restart research enterprises and to help ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors” according to public records supplied by the university.

Some of this spending comes from the use of “green” cleaning products, which can be less corrosive to surfaces and avoid harsher chemicals. They also present less irritation to people sensitive to smells and cleaning products. However, green products may also be more expensive than traditional cleaners.

NC State has changed how it cleans and keeps campus safe, facilities director Doug Morton said. He explained that the staff makes sure to clean elevator buttons, door handles, and other high-use spots repeatedly. Money is also spent on “wet contamination,” or cleaning of something that may have been coughed or thrown up (staff “suit up” to protect themselves as they clean in those instances).

Now, Morton said If students or staff are concerned with certain spaces on campus, he encourages them to contact the facilities division to get the problem addressed.

Megan Zogby is a Martin Center intern.