Coronavirus Cleaning and Disinfection – What to do and how to do it!

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Coronavirus is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets caused by coughing, sneezing or talking, and the biggest risk factor for acquiring the illness is spending time near people who have the illness (whether they know they are infected or not).  These droplets may also settle on nearby surfaces.  There is currently some debate on how long these droplets may remain airborne (https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-07-04/coronavirus-airborne-spread); however, it is clear that while they do not travel far and they only remain viable for a limited amount of time, it is still possible for workers to be exposed to Coronavirus from contact with contaminated surfaces.  With this in mind, routine or periodic cleaning and disinfection are an important part of an overall workplace Coronavirus safety program, along with hand washing, social distancing and source control measures such as mask use.   Additional cleaning and disinfection can be considered in work areas if one or more workers contract Coronavirus. According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html, the first step to disinfect a surface is cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and dust and to reduce the amount of virus on the surface.  This should be followed by application of an approved disinfectant by wiping, spraying or fogging, consistent with manufacturer instructions.  Carpets or fabric that cannot be cleaned with soap and water can be HEPA-vacuumed, laundered or similar. The approach can be tailored to each workplace; however, to be effective, disinfection practices should be consistent with CDC guidelines.  Vendors marketing disinfection without cleaning may not be complying with CDC guidelines Additionally, ACTenviro is happy to provide professional assistance to any infectious disease questions or concerns. Whether it is proactive or reactive, our team of highly qualified technicians are fully equipped for infectious disease facility decontaminations. Cleaning should address areas and surfaces that are potentially contaminated.  Droplets typically travel 6 feet or less before settling on nearby surfaces, which limits areas that need to be addressed.
  • Typical surfaces include high-traffic areas such as floors, counters, tables, furniture, doors, items on open desks and walls (up to approximately 6 feet).
  • Other areas to address include high-touch surfaces such light switches, doorknobs or faucets.
Elevated or inaccessible areas are not likely to be contaminated and should not be cleaned.
  • For this reason, gas “bombs”, fumigation and similar approaches are not needed, and may not comply with CDC guidelines which require cleaning prior to application of disinfectant.
  • Similarly, because the particles do not travel far and are only viable for a limited amount of time, cleaning and disinfection of ducts, filters and other HVAC equipment is generally not necessary.
Other areas that may require cleaning but not disinfection include objects that are not frequently touched, outdoor areas, and areas that have not been occupied for seven days or more. Once clean, an approved disinfectant should be applied to surfaces by wiping, spraying or fogging, consistent with manufacturer instructions.  Workers should use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and eye protection, and it is important that cleaners and disinfectants be prepared and used as indicated by manufacturers.  Once disinfectants are applied to a surface, they should be left on the surface for the designated “contact time” or allowed to dry on the surface. Once complete, the area is cleaned and disinfected and ready to be re-occupied! Stay tuned for our next post where we will talk about EPA List N, approved disinfectants and how to find out if the product that you are using appropriate for covid-19 decontamination. We will follow that up with a final post in this 3-part series that looks at validation and how to make sure that your cleaning and decontamination process is effective.

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