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UNO employee: Custodians untrained for possible coronavirus cleanup

Custodians were 'nervous as hell,' said an employee who wished to stay anonymous to protect job
Posted: 6:37 PM, Mar 10, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-10 19:37:09-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A University of Nebraska Omaha employee raised concerns to 3 News Now Investigators on Monday about how custodial workers were treated when asked to clean a room in the wellness center on campus due to coronavirus precautions.

A person possibly exposed while off campus attended an activity in a room in UNO's Health and Kinesiology building prior to being asked to self-quarantine, the university confirmed Tuesday though a statement from spokesperson Brandon Bartling.

"The facility has been cleaned thoroughly in accordance with CDC-recommended cleaning and disinfection procedures," a UNO spokesperson said in the statement. "It has been returned to normal use. Regular operations at UNO’s H&K building were unaffected."

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the employees didn't have proper protection and training. "Their concerns were not listened to," the source said.

The university denied this in the statement: "UNO’s custodial staff receives continuous training on cleaning and disinfection best practices, including training specific to events such as this. Staff who cleaned the room in question were equipped with the proper personal protective equipment and the cleaning and disinfecting products used are among those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The facilities team was made aware of the project on Sunday and "immediate steps were taken to to restrict access to the room in question and clean it" according to CDC guidelines, Bartling said.

But staff, some who are older and feel particularly vulnerable to the virus, voiced concerns, the source said.

"I think it put people at risk," the source said. (UNO) "should've hired a contractor."

According to our source, on Monday morning, it was discovered the wrong room was cleaned Sunday, but the room was locked and no one accessed the room before the mistake was discovered, the source said.

"The proper room was locked until it was cleaned," UNO spokesperson Bartling said in an email.

UNO is preparing for the possibility of a move to remote classes only. The latest information on UNO-related coronavirus updates is available on UNO's coronavirus page.

The Douglas County Health Department has identified more than 350 people who are being "actively monitored or self-quarantined" as of Tuesday. "Close contacts are defined as people who were within six feet of a confirmed case for a prolonged period of time or living with, visiting, caring for, sharing a waiting room with, or having someone infected with COVID-19 cough on you," the department said in a release.

If you have any information on this or any other tip, email us at investigate@3newsnow.com, or call or text (402) 803-8183. You may also use that number to reach the investigative team on the encrypted messaging app Signal.