based on an original article by Leslie Gibson McCarthy

In summer 2020, with the pandemic showing no signs of abating, it became clear that returning to campus in the fall would be a formidable challenge. Plans were put into action to make campus as safe as possible for returning students, faculty, and staff.

As part of that process, every single building and every single room on the Danforth campus was analyzed to determine what needed to be done. 

And, according to J.D. Long, associate vice chancellor for facilities, planning and management, the university worked with an outside consultant to determine where there was a need to increase filtration and improve airflows and how best to do that.

Other efforts, large and small, were implemented to allow for physical distancing, educate the community, and create safer spaces safe for learning, teaching, and living—all the while, preserving a sense of WashU Together, though many of us are apart.

Here, by the numbers, are just a few of the innovative ways WashU is working to make campus safe in the time of COVID.

By the Numbers


Doing more outdoors

600 moveable outdoor chairs were distributed across the Danforth campus to provide more places to spread out and socialize safely. About half serve as seating for 175 new bistro tables set up around campus for more outside dining options.

Green outdoor chair on the lawn in front of Brookings Hall at Washington UniversityPhoto: Joe Angeles/Washington University


Three spacious, semi-permanent walled tents were erected on the Danforth campus and South Forty to create physically distanced space for students to study and take online classes. Each has self-sustaining power, heat and air conditioning, and an air filtration system.

Temporary cubicles line the inside of a large white tent
Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University


  “What we did was ‘de-densify’ the campus.”

                                                                                                                                                                         – J. D. Long

No space goes to waste

Iconic campus spaces like Graham Chapel, Holmes Lounge, and Olin Library were repurposed to house functional workstations. In all, 1,200 cubicles were erected in 15 different buildings on campus, as well as in the three semi-permanent tents. The cubbies are designed to be multi-purpose and can be used for studying, online classes, or eating. They’re professionally cleaned daily and also are equipped with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.

temporary cubicle workspaces inside Graham Chapel at Washington University
Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University


Staying safe at mealtime

In the dining halls, widely spaced tables were equipped with plexiglass panels. Floor decals keep foot traffic moving. Hospitality coordinators—a kind of concierge service—ensure that physical-distancing capacity isn’t exceeded and that traffic is flowing safely and smoothly. Some dining locations pivoted from indoor seating to “mini-marts” that sell to-go food and drinks. Mobile ordering was added to all dining locations as well.

A janitorial worker cleans plexiglass divider panels
Photo: Devon Hill/Washington University


A colorful decal on a pebbled sidewalk reads "Because we are WashU"
Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University


To learn more, read the full story in the Source.