As students walk into Bearcat Commons, they are greeted with stickers on the ground guiding them where to go, plastic screens block students from employees, limited self-serve options and rearranged seating allow for 6 feet of social distancing.
Bearcat Commons opened on the first day of Advantage Weekend, Aug. 15. Due to social distancing measures, it was not as crowded as past students may remember it.
Spencer Martin, senior food service director at Aramark, said in an email, “You will see a lot of six feet social distancing and capacity requirements in place to help reduce the transmission of the virus.”
Among the mitigation measures Campus Dining has in place, Bearcat Commons will close from 10-10:30 a.m. and 3-3:45 p.m. for deep cleaning everyday. Campus Dining employees are also expected to sanitize chairs and tables after each person leaves. Tables that have been sanitized are marked with a green sheet of paper reading in white letters, “This table has been cleaned.”
Disposable to-go boxes are also available and encouraged upon request as students enter Bearcat Commons. When students ask for a to-go box, their meal is made on a plate by an employee, and the student is expected to put their food into the to go box in order to limit contact.
Martin said Campus Dining is evaluating common touch points in order to reduce the amount of times something is touched.
According to Northwest's website, in order to reduce some common touch points, all condiments, napkins and plasticware will be distributed by employees. Any other items that were grab-and-go last semester are now packaged separately into containers or disposable plastic bags.
Martin said it is important for students to wear face coverings when they’re not eating. Students are required to wear face masks when they are not seated at a table and must maintain 6 feet social distance while waiting in line for food.
“There will also be personal protective equipment available in the POD Market and within the vending program as well,” Martin said.
All dining employees will receive medical screenings before their shifts start and a second screening later on in their shift. If at any point an employee tests positive for COVID-19, starts displaying symptoms or comes into contact with someone who has tested positive, they will be asked to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.
Students in isolation or quarantine will be able to have food delivered to them by Campus Dining.
Bearcat Commons has also been working on coming up with alternative ways to reduce contact between people.
“We are working through the process of a mobile ordering platform here on campus as well as food carts and a future delivery option,” Martin said.
In another email, Martin said that they are hoping to have mobile ordering and food carts open by the week of Sep. 8 and the delivery option may be something that comes by spring 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released suggested guidelines for colleges and universities to follow. Among these include staggering and restricting the number of students allowed and adding physical barricades, both of which Bearcat Commons has made a top priority.
Other Aramark campuses, such as Missouri Western State University, are taking similar precautions.
According to the Missouri Western website, “Our dining partner Aramark has established requirements to allow at least 6 feet of distance between each diner, including both lines and seating arrangements.”
Missouri Western is also getting rid of self-serve options in order to limit the contact between students.
Outside of campus dining, COVID-19 has impacted restaurant dining as a whole. People now encounter “drive-thru only” signs or are required to wear a mask when upon entry. Similar precautions can be seen at Northwest as classes begin, such as wearing masks and tables being 6 feet apart.
Updates on operation of Bearcat Commons will continue to be announced through Bearcat Alerts.