Navigating returning to work on campus safely

Bobby Quinonez working at his desk

Bobby Quinonez, administrative analyst in the College of Science

September 9, 2021

By Walter Ryce

Some employees, including those in Facilities and University Police, never stopped working on campus during the pandemic. But the vast majority of employees did. For almost a year-and-a-half, faculty and staff worked remotely from home. 

Starting this past summer, those employees began returning to the offices they had hurriedly left behind in March 2020. Bobby Quiñonez was one of them.

He began working at CSUMB more than 16 years ago, occupying three positions, and is currently an administrative analyst in the College of Science. 

Asked what he missed about working on campus, he says, “I missed my workspace, and having a dedicated space for work. So when I come home, home is a place where I can reset and rejuvenate.”

Upon returning to their offices, some reported finding odd or surreal sights, like wall calendars still on March 2020, notepads with the date of their last entry, dead potted plants. Quiñonez was no different.

“I found ash that blew in from last year's fires!” he says. “I had left my window open during one of very few visits back to the office during the remote working period, and a significant amount of ash had found its way into my office. Thankfully it’s not a shared space and was not wide open.”

He says that he was looking forward to interacting with his colleagues again. Safely. 

Ana Hernandez, senior director of Health and Wellness Services, and Amy Thomas, director for Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management, concurred on how to return safely.

“Employees across the nation who are returning to work in person have concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19. We are encouraging everyone to continue practicing their personal protective measures to help them protect themselves and others. This is the only way we have control over our situation that can help reduce fears and feel safe.”

Those measures include:

  • COVID-19 Vaccination
  • Other vaccinations, such as influenza or pneumonia
  • Perform daily self-check (monitor symptoms/temperature checks)
  • Diagnosis/post exposure COVID-19 testing
  • Avoiding crowds and physical contact 
  • Wear face coverings
  • Maintain comfortable distance (3 to 6-foot distances) 
  • Thoroughly washing hands
  • Individuals may clean public work spaces before use 

Quiñonez’s anxiety about being in-person has been assuaged by the campus’s approach. 

“I think the mask mandate for indoor spaces is critical,” he says. “That, on top of the vaccination requirement, are the best reasonable and scientific tools we have on hand. I was also happy to see that testing is available.”

He says that he expected to see positive cases as the fall semester began with students back on campus and in classrooms, but has been relieved that the numbers have been as small as they have. 

“I saw yesterday that Monterey County was doing better in terms of numbers in California. That’s really promising. It’s good to know our area is being so proactive.” 

Larry Samuels, vice president of Strategic Initiatives and executive director of University Corporation, reflected on how faculty and staff have navigated the pandemic as well as the return to campus.

“I am so proud to be part of a team that has responded to a once in a century challenge,” he said. “The pandemic has challenged the world and upended higher education, but the response of CSUMB faculty and staff has allowed thousands of student Otters to sustain their academic trajectory. Let's all pause a moment to appreciate what we have accomplished in this new academic year.”