Access to public toilets and restrooms is vital for the health and wellbeing of facility occupants and customers. Still, with the ongoing lockdowns in place, many businesses have opted to deny access to even paying customers.
COVID-19 and the Concern Regarding the Cleanliness of Commodes
Before the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, public restroom cleanliness and hygiene ranked highly among restaurant diners, hospitality guests, and other business consumers--the absence of which could result in a loss of business to competitors, and a slew of online and word of mouth complaints regarding perceptions of management competence and social intelligence.
As a result of the ongoing lockdowns due to fears surrounding SARS-CoV-2, even local, state, and federal buildings, such as public libraries, have barred access to their restrooms, leaving many non-conventional workers, like Uber drivers, as well as the homeless, to seek relief in undesirable locations.
According to a recent article published by Pew Trusts regarding the ongoing challenge in Seattle;
The lack of restrooms has become an issue for delivery workers, taxi and ride-hailing drivers and others who make their living outside of a fixed office building.
For the city’s homeless, it’s part of an ongoing problem that preceded COVID-19.
A nearby pet supply store used to let homeless people use the restroom, but that changed during the pandemic.
Conditions improved markedly when the city placed a portable restroom and handwashing station near the camp, but Eric said many more parts of town still lack similar amenities.
Seattle officials say the city has set up 32 portable toilets during the pandemic, bringing the total to 114 citywide.
Another 107 restrooms are available at city parks.
At the five reopened library restrooms, nearly 6,000 patrons have taken advantage of the facilities, according to the library system, which has been tracking usage.
But advocates for the homeless say the city has come nowhere close to meeting the need.
Seattle isn't the only major city experiencing issues due to the lockdown of businesses--New York has experienced more than its fair share of challenges.
The New York Post spoke to several city residents who say they have witnessed a big uptick in public peeing as citizens are shunned from using the restrooms in bars, coffee shops, fast food joints and restaurants.
It's been so hard to properly urinate when out that one resident of Brooklyn says she's been carrying around toilet paper so she can go No. 1 - an act that has been decriminalized in the city since 2017.
However, while the issues surrounding the availability of public restrooms is concerning, the reasoning behind their closures may be even more worrisome.
COVID-19 and Toilet Plumes
According to recent research, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can replicate in the human digestive system and exit the body in fecal matter.
Further research has shown that the virus is contagious and can spread when aerosolized.
These revelations underscore older concerns regarding toilet plumes and their ability to spread germs and contaminate restroom facilities.
According to CNN Health;
Here's a good reason to put the lid down before you flush: a new computer modeling study shows how a flushing toilet can send a cloud of little particles containing fecal matter into the air -- fecal matter that could carry coronavirus.
Doctors have shown that coronavirus can live and replicate in the digestive system, and evidence of the virus has been found in human waste.
It's considered a possible route of transmission.
Now a team at Yangzhou University in China has used computer modeling to show how the water from a flushed toilet could spray up into the air -- as high as three feet.
Cleaning Public Toilets to Combat COVID-19
Toilet plumes aside, public restroom availability must confront several challenges during an outbreak.
- They're small, which makes social distancing difficult.
- They lack adequate ventilation, which makes dealing with airborne pathogens problematic, and;
- The entire facility is essentially one great big germ hotspot.
Increasing the frequency and quality of cleaning as well as introducing porter services to disinfect the most commonly touched fomites can help reduce the spread of germs and bacteria while protecting public health.
This can be accomplished by deep cleaning the facility every day with a no-touch scrubber-vac, which will reduce the time, labor, and cost of cleaning while increasing the levels of facility hygiene well over conventional methods.
When combined with day porter services, whereby the restroom's key touchpoints are wiped down after a certain number of people have used the restroom, will help keep the level of detectable pathogens down to a safe level.
References & Resources
The need for publically available restroom facilities, especially in large urban areas, is obvious.
The consequences of failing to make the facilities available to the public will likely lead to further illness and public health issues in the very near future.
Adopting enhanced no-touch cleaning and disinfection measures, such as scrubber-vacs and electrostatic disinfection appliances, can make public restrooms safe for use and help alleviate the public health and safety hazards that have resulted from their closures.
Outsourcing to a service provider experienced in commercial cleaning services for large facilities, as well as protecting occupants from COVID-19 infections, is a proven method for ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and occupant safety.
If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation onsite assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!
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