Public Health + Hygiene Habits, General Guidance

The health of our community is our top priority. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so the best way to prevent the spread of illness is to avoid exposure. As part of our recovery, we will need to cultivate a culture of healthy practices that reduce the likelihood of virus transmission to promote a safer campus.

Healthy behaviors individuals need to practice include:

  • General protective measures (social distancing, handwashing, wearing face coverings)
  • Safer commuting and transportation
  • Community cleaning and disinfection
  • Safer practices for campus visitors (researchers, vendors)



    Physical distancing, also known as social distancing, means keeping space between yourself and other people while outside of your home. To practice physical distancing:

    • Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people
    • Do not gather in groups (group size will be defined as status changes)
    • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

    Social distancing can be achieved by facilitating work-from-home and otherwise separating desks and workstations wherever possible. Additionally, rotating staff through alternating work shifts, to reduce the number of staff onsite at one time, is implemented where possible.

    General Guidance for Indoor Occupants 

    As many in the campus community prepare to return to work, your supervisors and managers will be considering how the furniture in open workspaces can be rearranged to accommodate social distancing, and possibly implement a schedule so staff can work in shifts. Other areas that may be considered when evaluating workspaces for social distancing include:

    • Open workspaces or “bullpens” (typically occupied by cubicles)
    • Meeting/conference rooms
    • Lunchrooms (seating areas, near coffee makers, microwaves, etc.)
    • Lobbies or entryways

    Elevator Ridership

    Employees should do their best to ensure that no more than one individual or family group rides the elevator at a time and while in the elevator, individuals should maintain a safe space of at least 6 feet. If the size of the elevator does not allow for this, individuals should ride alone. When boarding an elevator car, be sure to let the individuals in the car exit first — not only is this courteous, but reduces the likelihood of contact (such as, bumping into or brushing up against one another) and helps to maintain social distance. Buttons should be pressed using the knuckle, elbow, an unused tissue, or pen with the ink filament removed.

    Labs and Shops

    Labs and shops conducting approved critical activities should consider utilizing a calendar to schedule shifts so that social distancing in the lab can be managed by having fewer members in the lab or shop at one time. Team members should increase the spacing between researchers by consciously maintaining a 6-foot spacing between individuals. To accomplish this, groups can use blue painter’s tape to outline workspaces and avoid sharing benches or worktops. Work that can be completed safely outside the space, such as computations and administrative work, should be done remotely. More detailed information for labs specifically can be found in Return to Research (link).

    In public open spaces 

    While strict social distancing recommendations remain in place, the use of recreational areas with high-touch equipment or that encourage gathering is prohibited. Therefore, Stanford’s basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts among other outdoor spaces will be closed. The use of picnic tables and outdoor barbecues are also prohibited.

    In addition, the use of open spaces cannot violate the social distancing requirements, including staying at least 6 feet away from other people. For instance, there can be no informal soccer or other games on our fields or other open spaces.

    The use of shared athletic equipment, such as a ball, may only be engaged in by members of the same household or living unit, which for students means those in your dorm room or suite. As a reminder, those who violate this order can be charged with a misdemeanor.


    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Break area and lab sinks should have a mounted soap dispenser with soap. Handwashing signs should be easily visible in bathrooms and break areas. The signs provided by EH&S are available in the Building Manager Toolbox, and the CDC has many signs available for download.

    If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Contact facilities management to obtain a mounted dispenser and refills.


    You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Wearing a cloth face covering will protect other people in case you are infected.  Due to current COVID-19 transmission risks, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, along with state and federal health officials, have required face covering usage in specific indoor and outdoor situations which apply at Stanford University.  For details on when/where face covering usage is required, refer to:  Health-Alerts Face Covering Guidance

    Quick Facts

    • Cloth face coverings cover both the nose and mouth and can be secured to the head with ties, straps, earloops, or are wrapped around the lower face. They can be made using a variety of cloth materials or improvised using bandanas, scarves, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. Watch a video on how to make a cloth face covering.
    • Refrain from using N95 respirators or medical/surgical face masks, as they are meant for healthcare workers. Learn the difference here.
    • Continue to keep 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face covering is NOT a substitute for social distancing.

    Instances of where it is not appropriate to wear a face covering include:

    • People who cannot wear a face covering for health reasons, including:
      • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering; students in this situation should follow up with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) to receive an accommodation, and employees should contact their HR manager; or
      • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
    • Any worker to the extent wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard at work under established health and safety guidelines;
    • While eating or drinking; or
    • Children 6 years old or younger.

    For clarity, although wearing a face covering is one tool for reducing the spread of the virus, doing so is not a substitute for physical distancing of at least 6 feet and frequent hand washing.


    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have heard a few words used with much more frequency than before, and perhaps interchangeably. The reality is, face coverings, face masks, and PPE (or Personal Protective Equipment) are not the same things, with differences in medical vs. non-medical usage . As you will be hearing these words used throughout this site, it is important to take a moment to define these terms. For guidance on what Stanford is requiring employees wear while at work, visit Face Coverings. 

    Face Covering 

    Face coverings are used to help protect others from any  illness the wearer might be able to spread. These are not medical grade. A face covering can be either commercially manufactured or homemade. They are typically made of cloth and are washable.  Cloth face coverings should be routinely washed depending on frequency of use. Disposable face coverings should be disposed of in the garbage after each use unless a pre-approved reuse program has been cleared with EH&S.

    Face Mask

    Face masks  are manufactured (not homemade) and are used to protect the wearer from airborne dusts/ aerosols. Face masks (without exhalation valves) can also be worn to protect others if the wearer is ill.  Common types of face masks include dust masks, surgical masks, and N95 filtering facepiece respirators.  Currently, individuals who do not work in a healthcare setting are being asked to reserve surgical masks and medical-grade N95s for healthcare workers, and instead may safely wear face coverings when going out in public (see face covering definition).

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    PPE, as defined by OSHA, is “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses”. PPE is selected according to the hazards in the work environment, and is designed to protect the individual from exposure to those hazards. In the context of COVID-19, depending on your job duties, you might be asked to wear a face covering or face mask in addition to your regular PPE required for your job function.


    Each day, Marguerite buses are cleaned during daily servicing. Interiors and frequently touched surfaces are wiped down using an alcohol-based, EPA-approved disinfectant, which aligns with recommendations from the CDC. Passenger limits and other measures for riders have also been implemented to protect the health and well-being of riders and drivers.

    Marguerite service changes related to COVID-19 and available alternatives are summarized here. The latest information about carpooling and vanpooling, public transit, and more is available on Stanford Transportation’s COVID-19 Featured Topics page.


    In addition to Administrative Guidelines pertaining to service vehicle use, the following are recommended COVID-19 precautions whenever operating a University-owned vehicle:

    • Wherever possible, limit vehicle capacity to 1 person per vehicle. Consider using alternative modes of transportation including walking and biking.
    • Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down high touch surfaces (e.g., steering wheel, parking brake, gear shift, arm rests, etc) to prevent the spread of pathogens.
    • Where available, encourage hand hygiene by providing hand sanitizer.


    While the virus is not thought to transmit effectively by a person’s contact with surfaces, current evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces is a best practice measure for the removal of potential pathogens causing COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in our working and living spaces.

    How is the University cleaning and disinfecting buildings across campus?

    • Occupied Buildings: In addition to routine custodial cleaning, the university has implemented an enhanced cleaning frequency to clean and disinfect common areas and commonly touched surfaces in occupied buildings. Touchpoints such as entrance handles, handrails, elevator buttons, tables, restroom stall handles/doors are being cleaned at least once daily, five days a week, using EPA-registered disinfectants. Some areas of the campus, specific to the operation, clean to the standard of their department or unit’s operational needs.
    • Unoccupied Buildings: All unoccupied buildings will receive a one-time, detailed deep cleaning and disinfection, using EPA-registered disinfectants. Routine custodial cleaning along with the enhanced cleaning frequency will resume once the buildings are occupied again.

    Cleaning FAQ

    What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

    Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

    Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill or inactivate germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. However, disinfecting a surface after cleaning can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

    What is the recommended practice for disinfecting (not cleaning) surfaces?

    Wear disposable gloves and eye protection when disinfecting surfaces, and ensure the area has good ventilation. If the area does not have good ventilation, disinfect and leave the area until the surfaces have dried. Discard gloves after each cleaning and clean hands immediately.

    Using paper towels, first clean dirty surfaces with a detergent or soap and water, then carefully apply disinfectant and wipe to evenly distribute the disinfectant. Avoid spraying disinfectant on the surfaces to prevent the creation of aerosols. Allow surfaces to air dry. Discard paper towels and disinfecting wipes into the regular trash.

    Which disinfectants kill the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)?

    The virus is effectively killed by using 10% freshly prepared bleach, 70% ethanol, or disinfecting wipes. Virkon-S is a safe disinfectant for use around animal areas.  Do not mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners. The EPA has provided a helpful list of registered disinfectants effective against the novel coronavirus, including ready-to-use Clorox and Lysol products.

    How long does it take for a disinfectant to kill the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)?

    Consult the product label for the minimum contact time.  Cleaning wipes do not kill the virus, so be sure to use disinfecting wipes and follow the instructions carefully. Disinfecting wipes must remain wet to be effective.  Be sure to tightly close the lid when not in use.

    Due to the novel nature of this virus, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for the disease, COVID-19) may not be listed on product labels at this time. The EPA has an accelerated process in place to allow for novel viruses to be added to product labels.  If SARS-CoV-2 is not specifically listed on your product label, you may consult with the Stanford EH&S office.

    How frequently should disinfection occur? 

    Disinfection frequency depends on the amount of activity in the lab and shared office areas. At the very least, disinfection should occur daily. Janitorial services are providing stepped-up cleaning of cafeterias, breakrooms, bathrooms, and other common areas nightly. Contact your building manager or work services for details regarding janitorial services.

    What surfaces need to be disinfected?

    Highly touched surfaces include hard-backed chairs, desktops, computer keyboards, computer displays, remotes, light switches, elevator buttons, handrails, doorknobs, door push plates, card readers, refrigerator/freezer handles, equipment switches, benchtops, biosafety cabinet and fume hood sashes and their working surfaces, biowaste container lids, commonly used hand tools and small objects (pipettors), and shared PPE (laser goggles). Be careful when disinfecting sensitive equipment to prevent the disruption of the equipment.

    Is the University planning to install dispenser stations containing hand sanitizer?

    Dispenser stations containing alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be installed at building entrances, as supplies allow. Although hand sanitizer can help prevent the spread of the virus, practicing the CDC’s proper hand-washing technique is considered to be more effective.

    How can I disinfect my workplace?

    Clean commonly touched surfaces throughout the day including lab benches, lab equipment, desks, phones, remote controls, printers, fax machines, computer mouses and keyboards. The University recommends that departments or units purchase EPA-registered disinfectants such as single-use disinfectant wipes and multi-surface spray cleaners. Always use cleaning products as recommended on manufacturer labels, including wearing disposable gloves where directed.


    Guidance for visitors

    An order covering six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, requires everyone to “shelter in place” until at least May 31st to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This order covers non-essential events of any size.

    Campus events have been canceled or postponed or changed to an online format. For updates about events, please visit

    Supplier and vendor guidance

    In order to ensure the health and safety of the university community and of Stanford’s valued suppliers and vendors, it’s advised that suppliers and vendors contact their campus partners directly before making deliveries or attempting to provide on-site service. Suppliers should confirm or revise service and delivery instructions in accordance with university measures, specifically with regard to restrictions around building access and limited operations.

    Guidance for New Visiting Scholars

    Stanford has restricted the appointment of all new Visiting Student Researchers, Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars, and Visiting Scholars until at least June 1, 2020. By limiting the arrival of new visiting researchers on campus, we can focus our attention on keeping our community as safe as possible. Also, as you realize, travel restrictions can be imposed at any time, further complicating plans for visitors to arrive on campus.

    We appreciate your understanding in this unprecedented situation and recognize that this may affect your research plans. If you have Visiting Student Researchers, Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars, or Visiting Scholars who were planning to arrive on campus before June 1, please postpone their appointment until at least June 1 (recognizing that this date may change) by updating and submitting the relevant appointment documents.