Barton Malow Builders, the general contractor of the Queally Athletics Center project, instituted a mandatory mask policy for contractors working inside the building in response to a painting contractor testing positive for COVID-19, said Chuck Rogers, University Facilities director of design and construction.
The University of Richmond community was informed of the contractor's diagnosis in a May 18 email sent by Brittany Schaal, director of emergency management.
The contractor was last on the UR site on May 14, and other contractors who had contact with the person who was diagnosed were told to quarantine and will not be allowed on the site until they receive a negative test, according to Schaal's email.
Another contractor working at the site tested positive for COVID-19 earlier, in April, causing the project to shut down for two weeks for sanitation purposes, Associate Vice President for Facilities Andrew McBride said.
After the May 14 case was discovered, the project did not shut down. On May 18 an outside company cleaned the area where the contractor worked and any other facilities the person used, according to Schaal's email.
UR was notified about the contractor's diagnosis on May 17 by Barton Malow Builders, Rogers said.
Daniel Buchta, vice president of Virginia operations at Barton Malow Builders, declined to provide details on any specific health cases.
"Our priority is the health and safety of our team members, trade workers and the community," Buchta wrote in an email to The Collegian on May 27. "We are abiding by all health guidelines and have project-specific procedures in place to ensure a safe working environment. We continue to be on track to meet the University’s schedule goals for a fall 2020 completion."
The Queally Athletics Center and the Well-Being Center were originally expected to open by the start of the fall 2020 semester.
“The new Well-Being facility was scheduled to open up in late August," McBride said. "However, the set date may realistically be pushed back a week or two."
As the cases of COVID-19 increased in Virginia, project-specific safety procedures were put into place, Rogers said.
These safety procedures include having EMTs on-site to ask anyone entering the sites a series of health-related questions, such as whether they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have had contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus, Rogers said. The EMTs also perform temperature checks before the person is allowed to enter, Rogers said.
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The workers are required to wear masks, use handwashing stations provided by the construction companies and follow social distancing procedures while they are working and during lunch breaks, Rogers said.
“Some of [the construction workers] are taking their breaks standing outside and getting some fresh air, which is good for them, but they're definitely staggering breaks,” Rogers said. “Some of them had water dispensers on site for a kind of community use, and they've gone to all bottled water so that everybody is not congregating at the water fountain and using the same facilities. So, it's just little things like that, just trying their best to keep people away from each other.”
Additionally, the project switched from a five-day, eight-hour schedule to a four-day, 10-hour schedule, Rogers said.
"Reducing the number of days that workers travel to and from campus to the job site is one small way to limit the possibility of transmission of the virus," Rogers wrote in an email to The Collegian.
The Queally Athletics Center is set to become the new home for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, according to the University of Richmond Athletics website.
McBride said that in his 26 years at the University of Richmond he had never experienced such overwhelming circumstances as those posed by COVID-19 during a project.
Ryan Harford contributed to reporting.
Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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