Eastern Michigan University Athletics Department helps St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital with huge daily laundry load generated during COVID-19 epidemic

EMU athletics laundry room

YPSILANTI – Question: What do a major college athletics program and a large hospital complex have in common?

One answer you might not have thought of is that they both do a lot of laundry, a fact that’s enabling Eastern Michigan University to extend a helping hand to nearby St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis.

The hospital is, of course, using far more medical related clothing than normal in handling the epidemic, so much so that it is making daily use of the three 60-gallon washing machines and four dryers in the Student Athlete Performance Center (SAPC), located next to Rynearson Football Stadium.

It’s a highly convenient arrangement, as the SAPC is located kiddie corner from the expansive St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital complex. Hospital staff comes by each day with the loads of laundry and an EMU athletic staff member lets them in to do the wash – maintaining physical distancing, of course.

“We’re gratified that we can extend this kind of help to the hospital, which is doing such exceptional work in confronting this crisis,” said Scott Wetherbee, vice president and director of EMU Athletics. “We all want to play a role in helping the community at this time, and community service has and always will be central to our mission in EMU Athletics.”

The arrangement began when the hosiptai reached out to the University to see if industrial washers and dryers were available on campus, and Wetherbee shared information about Eastern Athletics' facility and its capabilities.

Hospital staff handles the laundry process, including the several steps of precautions required. The EMU staff involved arrives early to open the facility and loading dock area for hospital trucks.

"We stay on site to make sure there are no issues with the machines or other needs that arise," said EMU equipment manager Ben Herman, adding that EMU staff sanitizes the room once hospital staff leave for the day. 

Herman said the hospital runs loads from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, with about 20 loads a day. 

"Their whole staff, from the drivers to laundry operators, have been great to work with, and I do think they greatly appreciate the proximity and availability of our site to help during this surge," Herman said. 

Help with laundry is just one of the ways in which the University is working to help St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital during the health crisis.

Other efforts include opening up housing units in the Village complex for St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital staff to staff in order to self-isolate following shifts treating patients, and donating more than 100,000 pieces of cleaning and protective equipment to the hospital. EMU graduate nursing students, staff and alumni are also working at various area Coronavirus drive-through testing sites.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

April 20, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom