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Spring 2021 Updates

Visit the Best Practices Essentials webpage for Spring 2021 COVID-19 Updates.

Best Practices for Congregate Living

Updated October 2020

As we are moving into the cold weather season, please be sure to note some healthy practices and recommendations as well as ways to extend the outdoor season in the last section on this page. Over the last couple of months, we have learned a lot about COVID-19 and how it interacts with FSCL housing. This document is being provided to share what we have learned and offer additional best practices, suggestions and ideas for slowing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. We’ve learned that the implementation of, and compliance to, these best practices are significant factors in the decision of whether to quarantine an entire house or instead a smaller group of residents that are high risk contacts. While there is no way to completely prevent COVID-19 exposure, following these guidelines allows for the mitigation of risk through multiple layers of protection.

Terms to Know

SARS-CoV-2 – The name of the coronavirus that is causing the pandemic.
COVID-19 – The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2
Quarantine – A 14-day period for a person who has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
Isolation – A period of at least 10 days for a person who has been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Guiding Considerations

Require Face Coverings
Face coverings are required to be worn throughout the community unless a member is in their personal room or participating in an activity such as showering, brushing teeth, eating or drinking. Communities should consider having a statement about face coverings prepared or use one provided by PPHC for posting throughout the community. Wearing a face mask is the single most important thing each member of a house can do to mitigate risk.

Physical distancing must be followed throughout the community
From chapter rooms to bathrooms, it is important to set up spaces and gatherings to allow for physical distancing of 6 feet at minimum. Physical distancing also means refraining from sharing smoking or vaping items, food, beverages and other substances or possessions. Physical distancing expectations apply to events held outdoors at the residence. It is expected that residents wear masks, practice physical distancing and regularly sanitize and wash their hands when outside their residence appropriately as well to avoid brining SARS-CoV-2 home. Masks are to be worn at all times when distancing is not assured.

Utilize “Maximum Occupancy” and other helpful signage
Posting visual cues throughout the living community is highly recommended to help remind members of new community practices. Signs stating maximum room capacities and social distancing reminders posted throughout the community must be heeded.

Add hand sanitizing stations throughout community
Consider adding hand sanitizing stations at entrances and exits of each congregate living community, on different floors throughout buildings and in common gathering spaces. Soap dispensers should be available at each sink and kept filled.

Identify smaller groups by physical or shared space
To help mitigate the need for an entire house to quarantine, it is recommended to have congregate living community members grouped by physical proximity within the facility. Examples include grouping residents by floor, rooms or shared spaces. This helps minimize spread to all members of the community by limiting high contact to smaller clusters. Limiting the “mixing” of groups is one of the main factors in limiting the spread of disease.

Rely on scheduling to help regulate shared gathering spaces
Scheduling the usage of shared spaces is highly recommended in order to lower the risk of exposure. It is recommended that scheduling is coordinated by pre-identified small groups. Breaking the community into sub-groups and scheduling activities accordingly can help contain high-risk contact to those within the same sub-group of members. It is imperative that scheduled activities such as mealtimes be strictly followed by the community to lower risks.

Prepare for quarantine and short-term isolation
All houses need at least one room for short-term isolation, preferably with its own bathroom, to ensure space for a person who tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 or who becomes ill prior to transfer to the PPHC isolation quarters.

Residents who need to quarantine can do so by keeping to their rooms and leaving strictly for necessary activities.

When quarantined residents live in a house where other residents are not under quarantine, times should be set aside for quarantined individuals to perform activities like obtaining meals or laundering clothing apart from others.

Kitchen and Meal Preparation

  • All members will wash their hands with soap and water upon entering kitchens and dining rooms.
  • All members and staff will wear masks in these spaces until they are actively eating.

Kitchen Staff Requirements

  • All staff conducting meal preparation will wash their hands with soap and water upon entry and exit of kitchens or meal preparation space.
  • Meal preparation staff should always wear masks and gloves. Face shields offer additional protection when worn in conjunction with masks.
  • Used non-disposable food service items should be washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • If staff are preparing meals outside the community (contractors), a designated entrance and exit separate from the rest of the community must be used. In addition, these contractors should have a designated bathroom that is not shared with the rest of the community.

Meal Preparation

  • Meal preparation should include individually plated meals. It is highly recommended that plated meals be served in individual, disposal containers and plated in advance of meal service.
  • If non-disposable dishware is used, it must be cleaned in hot, soapy water and preferably in a dishwasher.
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups or eating utensils. Wash hands thoroughly after handling used food service items and when finished eating.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and change gloves after handling and removing garbage bags.

Meal Service and Dining

Meal Service

  • Having community members wait in line to pick up meals is discouraged. Set up meal service such that smaller groups already identified as explained above are scheduled to receive meals together. Stagger groups on a schedule if possible.
  • Meals should be individually packaged, prepared in advance and preferably served in disposable containers.
  • If a meal is being served to members, it should be served from behind a plexiglass barrier. This plexiglass barrier should span at least from the counter to over the heads of the servers and extend the full length of the serving area. Members should pick up their meals at the end of the service line.
  • All staff serving food should be wearing a mask, gloves and a face shield.


  • It is recommended that members dine in their personal room.
  • If a dining room is available, members should be scheduled for that space to adhere to spacing recommendations.
  • Dining rooms must be de-densified per Purdue guidelines. As part of de-densification efforts, furniture should be removed from this space to help encourage proper physical distancing. Signage should be place throughout the dining room stating the maximum occupancy for the room and individual tables. Signage on each table stating the maximum occupancy for the table is also recommended.

Laundry Rooms

  • All members will wash their hands with soap and water on entry of laundry space, if possible.
  • All members will wear masks at all times in these spaces.
  • All members using the space will be responsible for cleaning the space before and after each use. This includes laundry room appliances, counters, knobs, etc.
  • Communities should provide household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants for members to clean and disinfect buttons, knobs and handles of laundry machines, laundry baskets and shared laundry items.
  • Communities should post guidelines for handling of dirty laundry and washing instructions. For example, laundry that comes in with a member needs to leave with that same member.
  • Scheduling laundry times based on smaller groups identified in the community is highly recommended. Ideally, the group that eats together will also do laundry together and use the same bathroom to help limit high-risk contact across the entire community.
  • Depending on the size of the laundry room, Purdue’s physical distancing guidelines should be considered. This could potentially be done a few ways:
    • Restrict the number of appliances in use. This would include posting signs on appliances that should not be in use.
    • Determine the maximum occupancy of the laundry room at any given time. Post that number in the space.

Shared Bathrooms

  • Masks should be required in bathrooms and only removed for activities like showering, face washing and brushing teeth.
  • Communities should limit bathroom use by assigning bathrooms to identified smaller groups.
  • Maximum occupancy of shared bathrooms should be posted and adhered to by members.
  • Shared bathrooms should be cleaned regularly using EPA-registered disinfectants at least twice per day (e.g., in the morning and evening or after times of heavy use).
  • Members should clean bathroom surfaces before and after use using household disinfectants or wipes. Surfaces should include but are not limited to sinks, door handles, stall locks and doors, toilet handles, toilet seats, etc. Members should take note of every surface they have touched.
  • Bathrooms should be adequately stocked with cleaning supplies for members to clean up after themselves before and after use.
  • Bathroom trash cans should be emptied regularly. Whether by housing keeping or by assignment, trash should be emptied multiple times per day by gloved individuals. Hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling and removing garbage bags and gloves.
  • It’s important to make sure members are aware that sinks could be a source of infection and should avoid placing items, especially toothbrushes, directly on counter surfaces. Totes could also be used for personal items to limit contact with other surfaces in the bathroom.
  • Additional signage is recommended as a reminder throughout shared bathrooms. Those can include:

Sleeping Spaces

  • Communities need to facilitate ventilation of rooms and follow these suggestions:
    • Keep doors open
    • Open windows (slightly if HVAC is in use)
    • Operate ceiling fans
    • Use the continuous function on the HVAC


  • Single occupancy is preferred, wherever possible. Avoid having multiple people sleeping in the same room.
  • If multiple occupancy in a bedroom is necessary, please consider the following:
    • De-densify the bedroom by decreasing occupancy to as few people as possible.
    • If there are two people, allow for a distance radius of 6 feet per person. While sleeping, a separation of at least 10 feet head-to-head is recommended. Click here to see example diagrams.

Cold - Air Dorms

  • Cold-air dorms should be de-densified as much as possible. Reducing occupancy by at least half is recommended.
  • If bunks are used, only one person should be assigned per bunk. Having the occupants of the entire space sleep either on the upper or lower levels of bunks is preferred.

Gathering Spaces (Living rooms, game rooms, chapter rooms, etc.)

  • All members will wear masks at all times in these spaces.
  • All recruitment activities should be one-on-one or virtual. Group recruitment activities and events are prohibited.
  • Maximum occupancy of gathering spaces should be posted and adhered to by all members.
  • Arrange or remove furniture in these spaces to support physical distancing.
  • If the area has sectional seating, maximum seating occupancy needs to be posted on or near the seating.
  • Signage should be posted throughout the space to remind members to observe social distancing.
  • No activities, games or events of any kind should occur outside of those that are quarantined, and these should be done within sub-groups that have been formed within the house during quarantine.


  • It is important to remember each person has a responsibility to others as well as themselves. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem!
  • Any interactions with anyone outside of your quarantine group should be strictly avoided.
  • Leaving the quarantined housing space should be based strictly on need, not as a social occasion.
  • If the house has a designated outside area for relaxation/fresh air, it should be scheduled for use by quarantine sub-groups in the house. Physical distancing and masks should be strictly adhered to.
  • A short period of fresh air/exercise is allowed with no more than one buddy (who is in the same quarantine group) for a short walk/run of no more than 30 minutes. Masks must be worn at all times and any interactions with others outside of your exercise buddy are to be strictly avoided.
  • All food should be picked up to go and then brought directly back to the facility to eat in your room or designated area per housing quarantine guidance.
  • Pick up prescriptions or other necessary health products and return to housing unit.

Healthy Practices and Recommendations

As we are moving into the cold weather seasons, please see the following recommendations:

  • Emphasize fresh air ventilation options (cracking windows open) – break out the layered clothing!
  • Work with house corporation boards and/or maintenance contracts to implement a rigorous HVAC filter changing schedule (consider a residential HVAC system HEPA filter option).
  • HVAC system fan should be set to “always on” (work with house maintenance contract).
  • If using radiant heat, consider placing room air purifiers.

Extend the outdoor season:

  • Inquire about approved style of firepit(s)* for outdoor patio area (distanced seating) — don’t forget fire extinguishers.
  • Inquire about approved outdoor space heaters*
  • Consider having Adirondack chairs, twinkle lights and other such features to encourage/draw people outdoors.
  • Consider a portable TV system set-up that can be outdoors for movie night around an outdoor firepit.

* Work with the West Lafayette Fire Department

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