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How Dirty is Dawson?

Téa Barrett


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By day and by night, Dawson’s building can be found full of people working to keep visitors safe. They are unknown protectors from the invisible danger of bacteria, viruses, and germs. While this has been the narrative for a long time, it’s not entirely accurate according to Ph.D. candidate Dilhan Perera.

With the recent announcement that CEGEPs can allow in-person classes, the debate on Dawson’s safety has been lively. Many people fear visiting the campus after staying hidden indoors for so long and have made arguments against the reopening like Dawson’s poor ventilation. By talking to staff, and students, Dawson’s levels of sanitation are being brought under the microscope.

Sofia Fabritchny, a John Abbott student, says that college students are “a lot more alert of [their] surroundings, especially what [their] hands touch” and “always sanitize [their] hands” when out in public.

Dawson student Marie-Jeanne Pineault, a 2nd semester Cinema and Communications student, says that she is “very aware of everything [she’s] touching.” This heightened self-awareness is also actively promoted by Dawson College through posters and protocols on-campus.

Natalie Trepanier, the Cleaning Administrator at Dawson College explains how “Facilities Management increased cleaning and sanitizing the college” in response to the novel coronavirus.. During the day, the cleaning staff’s main focus is to “ensure [Dawson’s environment] is cleaned and disinfected.” More specifically, “high-traffic areas” are continuously cleaned. Door handles, water fountains, cafeteria tables, sinks, faucets, elevator buttons, handrails, light switches, food preparation surfaces would all be considered “high-traffic areas.” When night falls, cleaning staff “diligently continue working throughout the night and thoroughly clean and disinfect all classrooms and offices, including all tables and desk surfaces.” They also focus their time on disinfecting desks, floors, or emptying any trash.

Dawson has also taken new measures to protect students inside the campus in several ways. First, you need to complete a COVID-19 screening test 24 hours before coming to Dawson and once you do arrive, you’re given a new procedural mask. Staff were informed at the beginning of the pandemic that “personal area cleaning is to be performed by all employees in their personal workspace.” Ventilation has also been improved in classrooms to improve air quality and eating has been banned from classrooms to ensure the least chances of air-born bacteria spreading in a closed environment.

It’s hard to imagine how much bacteria co-exists with us and how much we come into contact with daily. Dilhan Perera, a Ph.D. candidate from McGill University, shares his microbiology knowledge through social media platforms Tik-Tok and Instagram. According to him, he began his social media accounts “as a teaching aid for my Microbiology students to show them how experiments are conducted in a lab setting.” Garbage handles, ATMs, Metropole grips, public transit ticket machines, metro revolving doors, and gas pumps all found in Montreal were tested for bacteria, by Perera, as “commonly-touched locations”. His results? They ranged from two colonies to over seventy. The public transit ticket machine held the most bacteria, but it’s important to remember that this does not prove that disease lurks behind every corner. “We don’t know what bacteria grew and they may not be pathogenic! But we can see that bacteria (good or bad) cover things we touch every day,” Perera states.

Dilhan hasn’t only tested common public things, but also places like grocery stores, tap water, snow, underneath shoes. His results proved his point that bacteria can be found anywhere, dangerous or not. Most assume that bacteria are generally found in huge quantities and that the bigger they are the worse they are. However, due to different factors like growth levels and the number of original bacteria bigger colonies tend to just grow faster. Second semester ALC student Elizabeth Woo admits that she avoids touching things in public and “when [she does] by accident, [she] feels gross."

Despite this popular misconception, students know better than to skip out on precautions like cleaning their hands. “I wash my hands as often as I can,” Pineault says, “and if that’s not possible I use hand sanitizer.” She adds that she may wash her hands “once or twice an hour,” but she is not the only one.

Knowing staff and students are actively being responsible and knowing that Dawson College is taking safety protocols into their own hands by implementing and installing better health measures is comforting to those scared of visiting the campus. Trepanier sends out an email “when [staff] had any concerns.” The email consists of new measures not only for cleaning staff, but all staff, and reassures people that “cleaning and disinfecting the college was an important part of our prevention strategy.”


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