Back To Work: FAQ's

Below is a list of preliminary questions you may wish to review.

The Workgroup will announce plans for the return of specific operating units to the campus. These announcements will be made through campus-wide emails, postings on the University’s website, as well as by direct notification from supervisors/directors. Please pay close attention to your email, as most information will be communicated in this way.

As everyone returns to campus, day-to-day operations will look very different than before the pandemic. We will continue encouraging remote work for those non-essential employees who can, distance learning for our students, fewer in-person group meetings, social distancing practices, and the wearing of facial coverings in all public spaces.

Essential employees, including anyone providing or supporting clinical care, Plant Operations, IT support, etc., will continue working on campus in their specific roles. Some essential employees in certain units may be able to work from home depending upon their roles; non-essential employees will continue to work mainly from home. As New York City reopening plans progress, some non-essential employees may return to the campus. Even then, some essential and non-essential employees may continue to work from home in whole or in part (e.g., telemedicine). Decisions about phased returns to office will be made based on operational units’ needs and responsibilities amid the need to minimize risk.

The phases for reopening Statewide, which will be applied region-by-region, are outlined below. Regardless, all SUNY institutions will submit a Return to Work Plan to SUNY System and the Governor’s Office for approval. Like other public services, approval may proceed at a different pace. Please continue to monitor your email and general announcements about our reopening plans.

Phase One—Construction, manufacturing, wholesale supply chain businesses, retailers for curbside or in-store pickup or drop-off. There is a minimum two-week evaluative period before considering a move to the next phase.

Phase Two—Storefront retailers, professional services businesses (finance, insurance, administrative support, real estate, and rental-leasing.

Phase Three—Hospitality industry, restaurants, hotels (full service)

Phase Four—Schools, arts, entertainment and recreation, cultural institutions

Everyone entering any of the campus buildings, facilities, or outpatient clinics will receive a temperature screening and be asked a series of questions about their health status.  Students and/or employees with temperatures of 100.0 degrees or higher will be referred to Student and Employee Health. Patients with temperatures above 100.0 degrees will be directed to their appointments; visitors will be advised to seek medical attention immediately.

Everyone on campus will be required to wear a facial covering in shared public spaces–including shared offices, hallways, lobbies, bathrooms, cafeteria, etc. Facial covering may only be removed when sitting alone in a private office or when eating. This policy will be strictly enforced.

Facecovering Enforcement Policy

No, testing is not a requirement for all employees. Testing will be recommended based on symptoms and history; testing will be available on campus.

Each building on Downstate’s campus (University Hospital of Brooklyn, the Basic Science Building, the Health Sciences Education Building, the Public Health and Administration Building) operate on their HVAC systems. There is no air exchanged between buildings.

Until further notice, everyone in our Downstate facilities should wear facial coverings in all public spaces, and we are working to minimize foot traffic in our buildings by asking employees to enter at the entrance closest to their worksite.

Signage will direct traffic patterns in stairwells and corridors; there will be a limit on the number of people riding elevators at any one time. Reminders will be posted about frequent handwashing and social distancing practices. The campus will have hand sanitizer and cleaning products available.

While it is challenging to eliminate associated risks—either on campus, outdoors, or in our own homes—caution will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety. Working together as a community and taking responsibility for our individual behaviors, including using the necessary precautions, can provide layers of protection for ourselves and others.

Each operating unit on campus will be asked to make plans for the return of its staff, which may result in some number of people working from home for operational reasons. Outside of those operating plans, individuals whose personal circumstances cause them concern about their ability to return to work on campus should bring those concerns and/or requests for accommodation to Nicole Sharpe in Human Resources.

In response to questions about the air filtration systems at SUNY Downstate, we are providing an update on how we are improving our facilities and addressing these concerns for specific areas of our campus.

Let me first assure you that SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University’s various air filtration systems in the UHB, BSB, HSEB, and PHAB meet the requirements of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which is the authority with jurisdiction over HVAC designs in all buildings and routinely cited in all CDC recommendations.


Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in facilities are designed to:

  • maintain the indoor air temperature and humidity at comfortable levels for staff, patients, and visitors
  • control odors;
  •  remove contaminated air;
  • facilitate air-handling requirements to protect susceptible staff and patients from airborne health-care-associated pathogens; and
  • minimize the risk for transmission of airborne pathogens from infected patients (Specifically Hospitals). i.e., Isolation Rooms; and perioperative procedure rooms.

Engineering controls to contain or prevent the spread of airborne contaminants center on:

  • local exhaust ventilation [i.e., source control]
  •  general ventilation, and
  • air cleaning

A centralized HVAC system operates as follows:

Outdoor air enters the system, where low-efficiency or “roughing” filters remove large particulate matter and many microorganisms. The air enters the distribution system for conditioning to the appropriate temperature, and humidity levels pass through an additional bank of filters for further cleaning. They are delivered to each zone of the building.

After the conditioned air is distributed to the designated space, it is withdrawn through a return duct system and delivered back to the HVAC unit. A portion of this “return air” is exhausted to the outside while the remainder is mixed with outdoor air for dilution and filtered for removal of contaminants.

Downstate-Specific Measures:

Basic Science Building (BSB)

Several areas of the BSB are pre-filtered, then filtered by MERV14 filters, and by HEPA filters with 100% outside air: DCM/IAVI and Gross Anatomy. 

Other areas of the BSB, including Lecture Halls, DCM Annex Space - Floors 2 through 7, the entire first floor Administration area, and the center east corridors - Floors 2 through 7 are pre-filtered, then filtered again by MERV 13 filters with 20% to 80% outside air.

Window/splits AC systems service the bulk of offices and lab areas.

Health Science and Education Building (HSEB)

  1. All areas are pre-filtered then filtered by MERV11 filters. The supply air is 20% to 80% outside air. To increase the protection level, we are investigating the procurement of UV-C wavelength germicidal lamps to install within the filter chamber system.
  2. Student Center - All areas are filtered to MERV8 filtration. The supply air is 20% to 80% outside air.
  3. 440 Lenox Road and Dorms - There is no central HVAC system; there is only general building fan exhaust.

Public Health Academic Building (PHAB)

All areas of the PHAB are pre-filtered then filtered by MERV 13 filters.  The supply air to the PHAB is 20% to 80% outside air that is limited by heating/cooling demands and New York State energy efficiency requirements.

University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB)

All HVAC fans are pre-filtered, then filtered by Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 filters in all general patient and clinical areas. The outside supply air to these areas is modulated between 20% to 80%, and limited by seasonal heating and cooling demands, as well as New York State energy efficiency requirements.

All Isolation Rooms are pre-filtered, then filtered by High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and exhausted through an additional set of HEPA filters. The outside supply air to the Isolations Rooms is set 100%.

All ICU rooms are pre-filtered, then filtered by MERV 14 filters.  The outside supply air to the ICUs is set at 100%.

All Operating Rooms are pre-filtered, then filtered by MERV 14 filters, and filtered again by HEPA filters. The outside supply air is set at 100%.



Standard 52.5 Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value Dust Spot Efficiency Arrestance Typical Controlled Contaminant Typical Applications and Limitations Typical Air Filter/Cleaner Type
20 n/a n/a < 0.30 pm particle size Cleanrooms >99.999% eff. On .10-.20 pmParticles
19 n/a n/a Virus (unattached) Radioactive Materials Particles
18 n/a n/a Carbon Dust Pharmaceutical Man. Particulates>99.97% eff. On .30 pm Particles
17 n/a n/a All Combustion smoke Carcinogenetic Materials
16 n/a n/a .30-1.0 pm Particle Size General Surgery Bag Filter- Non-supported
15 >95% n/a All Bacteria Hospital Inpatient Care microfine fiberglass or
14 90-95% >98% Most Tobacco Smoke Smoking Lounges synthetic media, 12-36 in. deep, 6-12 pockets
          Box Filter- Rigid Style Cartridge
13 89-90% >98% Proplet Nuceli (Sneeze) Superior Commercial Buildings Filters 6 to 12" deep may use lofted or paper media.
12 70-75% >95% 1.0-3.0 pm Particle Size Superior Residential Bag Filter- Non-supported
      Legionella   microfine fiberglass or
11 60-65% >95% Humidifier Dust Better Commercial Buildings synthetic media, 12-36 in. deep, 6-12 pockets
      Lead Dust    
          Box Filter- Rigid Style Cartridge
10 50-55% >95% Milled Flour   Filters 6 to 12" deep may use lofted or paper media.
      Auto Emissions Hospital Laboratories  
9 40-45% >90% Welding Fumes    
8 30-35% >90% 3.0-10.0 pm Particle Size Commercial Buildings Pleated Filters- Disposable, extended surface area, thick with
          cotton-polyester blend media,
      Mold Spores   cardboard frame
7 25-30% >90% Hair Spray Better Residential  
          Cartridge Filters- Graded density
          viscous coated cube or pocket
      Fabric Protector   filters, synthetic media
6 <20% 85-90% Dusting Aids Industrial Workplace  
          Throwaway- Disposable
      Cement Dust   synthetic panel filter.
5 <20% 80-85% Pudding Mix Paint Booth Inlet  
4 <20% 75-80% >10.0 pm Particle Size Minimal Filtration Throwaway- Disposable fiberglass or synthetic panel filter.
3 <20% 70-75% Dust Mites Residential Washable- Aluminum Mesh
      Sanding Dust    
2 <20% 65-70% Spray Paint Dust    
          Electrostatic- Self-charging
      Textile Fibers Window A/C Units woven panel filter.
1 <20% <65% Carpet Fibers    

Other actions being taken by FM&D in support of the BTNN Committee, and as per the CDC recommendations, are as follows.

We have:

  • increased disinfection throughout PHAB, BSB, and HSEB
  • installed additional hand sanitation stations on all floors
  • increased the outdoor air circulation into the building
  • disabled all demand-controlled ventilation
  • placed all filters on a proactive replacement schedule
  • keeping all air systems running throughout the night
  • investigating where we can install germicidal UV-C irradiation in HVAC filter chambers

As we navigate this “new normal” in every aspect of our lives, we remain committed to the safety and comfort for our faculty, staff, students, and visitors and the improvement and enhancement of our SUNY Downstate environment.