Recently, some news sources claimed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance on how the coronavirus is spread. Many of the headlines went so far as to claim the CDC now believed the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t spread easily on surfaces.
The CDC quickly intervened.
“CDC actively reviews our website to make sure the content is accessible and clear for all types of audiences,” the agency said in a news release. “As a result of one such review, edits were made to the organization of the COVID-19 transmission page, including adding a headline in an attempt to clarify other types of spread beyond person to person. This change was intended to make it easier to read, and was not a result of any new science.”
In other words, an edit meant to add clarity caused widespread confusion. Even worse, it resulted in the spread of erroneous—and potentially harmful—information. As the CDC clarified, it remains possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
As facility managers sort through guidance from the CDC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other sources in an attempt to ready their facilities for re-entry, these ever-evolving messages aren’t helping. These professionals are trying to create the safest, healthiest workplace for their employees, but they need accurate information from trusted sources to do so.
As certified infection prevention specialists with more than a decade of experience, we have three words for facility managers struggling to determine how to clean and disinfect their facilities for re-entry: Play it safe.
There’s still much to be learned about the coronavirus, including how it spreads. But recent studies have shown that the virus can live for hours or even days on different surface types—including door knobs and other high-touch surfaces. To protect employees to the best of their ability, facility managers should clean and disinfect their facilities upon re-entry and establish a thorough, ongoing cleaning and disinfecting schedule going forward.
We recommend facility managers follow the CDC’s three-step plan as they prepare to open their facilities.
First, you must develop your plan.
If your building has been unoccupied for more than seven days, you can resume your regular cleaning practices as the coronavirus has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than one week. We suggest deep cleaning your facility, including your carpet, before employees return. When deep cleaning your carpet, be sure to pre-vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, pre-spray with a suitable cleaner, agitate with a brushing system, and extract with hot water. Encapsulation, foam and dry cleaning should be avoided.
This is also the time to qualify your provider and work with your chosen vendor to determine which surfaces need to be disinfected, how often they need to be disinfected, what disinfectant should be used, and what special equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), is needed. To protect against the coronavirus, you must select a disinfectant from the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.
Second, you must implement your plan.
You cannot disinfect without cleaning to remove all germs that may be hiding on a dirty surface. When you’re ready to disinfect, be sure to follow all the instructions on the product label. This includes allowing the disinfectant to remain visibly wet, or dwell, on the surface for a specified period of time.
Keep in mind that soft and porous surfaces cannot be properly disinfected. You might want to remove these items from public areas or steam them regularly. And don’t forget to disinfect items employees bring from home.
Finally, you must maintain and revise your plan.
Continue your routine daily cleaning, and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily. Determine how often to disinfect other surfaces depending on level of use.
Most important, be flexible and adjust your plan as new information becomes available. As long as we’re continuing to learn about the novel coronavirus, guidance will continue to change. You must stay up-to-date on the current guidelines and be prepared to implement them in your facility.
And remember: when you disinfect, you're protecting your employees from a variety of germs, not just the coronavirus.
While COVID-19 is top of mind right now, flu season is right around the corner. And let’s not forget about other infectious diseases like MRSA, strep throat or even the common cold.
Interested in scheduling a free infection control consultation for your facility? Contact us today.