Safety First: Tour JWU Providence’s Updated Culinary Labs

On July 6, the halls of JWU Providence’s Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence will once again be bustling. Roughly 600 students will be returning to campus to resume their culinary labs — but this time, the faculty, staff and students will be wearing masks, and the labs will look a little different than they did before the arrival of the coronavirus.

Labs and hallways have been capped, per State of Rhode Island guidance, at a maximum of 15 occupants at any given time. In addition to wearing masks, all faculty, staff and students have been asked to maintain a 6-foot social distance at all times — both inside and outside — when on campus. Plexiglass dividers have been added to tasting stations and as barriers where prep tables don’t meet the 6-foot rule for appropriate social distancing. Hand sanitation wipes and disinfectant stations have been placed at every building entrance, by elevators, in labs and at service desks.

“This is going to be the new normal. We want to make sure that as we’re bringing you back to campus, we’re all on the same page.”

It’s a lot of change, but all of the protocols have been put into place to ensure a smooth, safe, and healthy transition as the campus slowly returns to life.

Bridget Sweet, who serves as JWU’s executive director of food safety, recently gave a video tour of the culinary facilities as a way to help familiarize and demystify the new protocols — and to emphasize how easily they can be integrated into the campus’ already stringent food safety protocols that all culinary students follow.

“Campus is not the same without you. We really just can’t wait to see you,” she explains. But, she adds, “We do recognize this is different, and a little bit scary, so we want to take a couple of minutes and really explain what we’ve been doing since you’ve been gone in March.”

She frames the changes as an extension of the university’s gold standard protocols for food safety. “Food safety is paramount. ... So the Gold standard [for food safety] will be our baseline when we return to campus. So you’re already prepared to deal with some of these changes as you come back.”

“Campus is not the same without you. We really just can’t wait to see you.”

Here are her top 5 commandments of COVID lab safety:

  1. Social distancing. “Social distancing is going to be the new norm for quite some time, and I think that’s probably the biggest area of opportunity for us faculty, staff and students.” Look for decals, signage and floor markings to indicate proper spacing in classrooms and throughout hallways and other public spaces on campus.
  2. Masks are required at all times during labs. Notes Sweet, “It’s really important that we understand the facial covering is designed to protect other people from you, in case you’re asymptomatic.” All students will be issued two facial coverings upon arrival on campus. (You can also bring your own masks, so long as they are washable.)
  3. Hand washing. “The CDC has estimated and proven that social distancing and hand washing are two of the biggest factors to control for the spread of Covid-19. We will be implementing more frequent hand-washing. We also have hand sanitizers that are available outside in the laboratory setting. We’re not recommending [these] inside of our laboratories right now, because hand washing is much more effective than hand sanitizer, but you will see the hand sanitizer stations all around campus for you to use in between classes.
  4. Daily health self-assessment. All students are being asked to monitor their wellbeing and to keep a diary of their locations and contacts for at least 14 days prior to coming to campus. In addition, it’s recommended that all students, faculty and staff working on campus download the Crush COVID RI app to make contact tracing and symptom-tracking easier. “We’re asking that you be completely transparent with us so we can continue to support you both with your education but also your classmates and peers to protect everyone’s health and safety at all times. So it’s not meant to be a burden,” notes Sweet.
  5. Take the stairs, and minimize your elevator use. “Moving forward, we want to ensure that the elevators are only used for no more than two people at a time, so over our in culinary labs, you want to make sure we’re utilizing [them] for trash, for food delivery, as well as trash recycling in plastic removal. We’re encouraging all of you to please use the stairs as appropriate.”

“This is going to be the new normal,” explains Sweet. “We want to make sure that as we’re bringing you back to campus, we’re all on the same page.”

Above all, she notes, “We’re going to be a resource for you. We want you to be comfortable to ask us these questions, and in terms to related to all of your peers as well, because we want you to feel comfortable when you come back. We cannot wait to have you back on campus!”

COVID-19 Campus Arrival Guidelines