What is known about the Coronavirus COVID-19
With so much misinformation about the virus COVID-19 circulating on social media, it is hard to know as a property or business owner how to incorporate a cleaning process that will be safe both to employees and clients. Here are some facts that the medical and science community agrees on:
- It is a new virus related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak
- The average person will spread it to 2 to 3 people while they have no symptoms
- It is all over the news and people are afraid
- The virus affects the lungs and can be deadly
- There is currently no EPA registered disinfectants with a claim against this new strain of coronavirus. There has not been enough time to test products.
Breaking the Chain of Infection
In order to control infections in your place of business, you need to understand how infections spread. Two things contribute to the chain of infection, the activities and behaviors of your employees and also the building environment in which they work. It is all about people and processes. Some xamples are listed below:
- Activities and behavior of employees, clients, and occupants
- Hands that are not clean
- Coughing and sneezing without covering your mouth
- Touching your face
- Attending large events
- Building environment
- Cleaning contaminated common touch surfaces
- Improving air circulation
Changing Occupant Activities and Behavior
Based on what is currently known about the virus COVID-19, it spreads from person-to-person. “By touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes,” a person could become ill. This statement is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most importantly, the CDC also suggests that employers educate their employees on behaviors that will help break the chain of infection.
- Have employees frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and running water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
- Schedule regular hand washing reminders by email
- Stop handshaking – use other noncontact methods of greeting
- Encourage employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth
- Promote “tap and pay” to limit handling of cash
- Use videoconferencing for meetings when possible
- Consider adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings
COVID-19 Cleaning Protocols for Your Building Environment
According to the Pima County website, viruses like coronaviruses (COVID-19) can be killed by following these cleaning procedures. Using this process, most viruses and bacteria can be eliminated.
- While the coronavirus is known to be an air-born virus, it can lurk for hours on high-touch surfaces. Therefore, be sure to have your janitorial staff clean all high-touch surfaces. Examples such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, and tablets every day.
- Have your janitorial staff clean any surfaces that may have blood, body fluids, and/or secretions or excretions on them.
- You need to be using the right products to make sure any nasty germs are killed. The EPA has a list of suggested disinfectants that were effective against the SARS Coronavirus.
- For disinfectants to work, they need to be in contact (dwell time) with the surface for 5-10 minutes without drying out to kill bacteria and viruses. However, if your cleaning personnel is not waiting 10 minutes per desk, the disinfecting process is not effective.
- For a large supply of disinfectant, add ¼ cup of bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water. Precautions when applying the sanitizing product need to be taken. For example, wearing gloves or aprons and making sure you have good ventilation during the use of the product. Please note: cleaning products that contain chlorine bleach may discolor surfaces when left on for the recommended dwell time.
But How Clean is Clean Enough?
On March 2, the Wildhorse Casino in eastern Oregon cleared out thousands of customers within hours of learning that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, the casino and adjacent hotel, movie theater, and arcade closed for two days of deep cleaning.
That same week, the North Star Mall in San Antonio closed for 24 hours of deep cleaning after learning that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 had visited several stores and the food court. Also, a nearby elementary school was closed for deep cleaning after it was discovered that one of the teachers worked at the mall.
In both cases, these businesses followed CDC recommendations for closing off infected areas and waiting 24 hours or as long as possible and then begin a deep cleaning and sanitizing process.
Federal Guidelines for COVID-19 Cleaning a Contaminated Space
CDC Guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting environments, including those contaminated with the coronavirus, require cleaning crews to be protected from potentially infectious materials as well as from the hazardous chemicals used in their cleaning tasks.
Business and property owners are turning to their Restoration Professionals to clean contaminated spaces. Restoration Professionals are ideally suited to respond because of their experience in remediating airborne pollutants that infect the lungs like asbestos and mold spores. Some other advantages:
- Equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit for using chemicals as well as a high quality, high filtration face mask
- Trained to identify and sanitize high-touch surfaces
- Trained to protect clients, the public, and our crew against pathogens
- IICRC certified crews and proper insurance to do this type of work
It is impossible to selectively clean for any virus. To be effective, a thorough process of clean and sanitation is required.
Be careful of a “Quick Fix”. There is no silver bullet replaces effective cleaning. Here some solutions best avoided:
- Fog only (don’t bomb it)
- Ozone generators (avoid use in an occupied building)
- Ultra-violet light
- Chemical in the HVAC system