Given the range of information making its way around the news, social media, and more conventional circles, it is vital that a clear, easy to follow guide be presented to facility occupants to ease their minds and allow them to focus on their work or studies, knowing that their health and wellness are protected.
Safe in Public: Safely Navigating Returns to School and Work in a Post-COVID World
Across the country, many communities are making serious efforts to reopen and return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.
However, concerns--whether valid or imagined--regarding public health and safety as it pertains to navigating public facilities remain.
Business owners, school administrators, teachers, and facility managers can reduce the anxiety of their workforce, prospective customers, and students by providing a clear and concise message with simple to understand instructions regarding proven methods to protect themselves and others.
These topics include everything from personal health and hygiene to safer choice disinfectant products approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against SARS-CoV-2.
On Masks and Social Distancing
Due to the highly controversial nature of mask research, mandates, and the amount of conflicting information regarding the asymptomatic spread of SARS-CoV-2 originating from state, federal, and public health officials, we will not be discussing masks as a recommended PPE.
That said, practical research does exist supporting the premise that certain kinds of masks, specifically N95 respirators, 3-layer surgical masks, and homemade, 3-layer, cotton masks can prevent the spread of contaminated droplets from a contagious person to others.
So, if you are going out into public with obvious symptoms, it is highly recommended that you wear a mask and maintain social distancing to protect others.
Research suggesting that anything short of an N95 respirator with an ideal fit can protect the wearer from acquiring the virus is dubious, at best, and conflicts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) own findings regarding the spread of influenza, cited below.
In regards to social distancing, repeatable research has shown that the droplets expelled from an infected person in the form of a cough, sneeze, or from talking or breathing, will typically fall within 1 meter, or 3.28 ft., but rarely more than than 2 meters, or just over 6 feet.
Thus, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others in public is a method for protecting yourself from the unknown, and should be practiced by those with obvious symptoms.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, best explained as;
[...] not a hardy virus.
Outside the body, in the wild, the SARS-CoV-2 is a wuss.
It won’t survive for long outside a warm, moist environment, like the host cells in the human respiratory system, for which it has a special affinity.
Unlike the other class of viruses called “naked” viruses, essentially dry particles with hard protein shells, coronaviruses belong to the class of enveloped viruses, which are covered by a bilipid (lipid =fat) layer that will suffer from desiccation.
They are also extremely vulnerable to chemicals, such as surfactants (soap and detergents).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus lasts only four hours in droplet form, one day on cardboard, two days on stainless steel, and three days on plastic surfaces, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
What that translates to in the real world is that we are over-applying dangerous levels of toxic disinfectants when soap and water suffice.
Hospital-grade disinfectants are dangerous and can result in severe life-threatening injuries, long-term health issues, and death if applied or mishandled.
These kinds of disinfectants should only be used in facilities with trained custodial staff and as needed to protect vulnerable demographics, such as those with compromised immune systems, pre-existing conditions, or the elderly.
Several safer choice products have been approved by the EPA in the fight against SARS-CoV-2.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends reviewing approved disinfectant products for the following active ingredients, which are considered safer and less toxic:
- Hydrogen peroxide,
- Ethyl alcohol (ethanol),
- Citric acid,
- L-lactic acid,
- Caprylic acid (octanoic acid), and;
Further, no commercially available disinfectant product has been approved by the EPA for the claim of residual efficacy against pathogens or viruses; only molds, mildew, fungi, and bacteria.
That means that as soon as a recently disinfected surface comes into contact with a pathogen, it is recontaminated, which has led to the rise of day porters roving around high-traffic areas, both indoors and out, wiping down high-touch germ hotspots shortly or immediately after use--think gas station attendants.
The most effective measures thus far have proven to be:
- Regularly cleaning high-risk areas, such as kitchens and restrooms, with no-touch scrubber-vacs.
- Deep cleaning classrooms and offices with advanced smart-microfiber cloths and soap-based detergents.
- Disinfecting high-traffic facilities with electrostatic disinfection appliances, and;
- Wiping down high-touch germ hotspots multiple times per day in accordance with facility occupancy and use.
A few points of caution:
- Never, under any circumstances, consume a cleaning or disinfectant product.
- Do NOT apply disinfectants or commercial cleaning products to food.
- Under no circumstances should you apply commercial cleaning products or disinfectants to your skin, hair, or other parts of your body.
Washing your hands with soap and water is and has been the single best method to prevent the spread of illness in the absence of a vaccine.
By now, it is no mystery that many individuals were not washing their hands properly, if at all, and ignoring the importance of drying their hands almost altogether.
The process is simple, but should be reviewed routinely with facility staff to ensure high levels of compliance.
- Rinse your hands with clean running water.
- Apply soap and scrub vigorously across the tops, between fingers, the palms, fingers, and fingernails for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Rinse the soap off into the sink.
- Dry your hands thoroughly with a paper towel.
- Apply hand sanitizer to your hands after exiting the restroom.
Additional safety precautions include hand awareness in public, meaning;
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
- Pay attention to what you're touching and educate yourself on the capacity of the surface to transmit germs.
- Keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy for use after departing public facilities when soap is not readily available.
As a word of caution:
- Pay attention to the active ingredients in the hand sanitizer.
- Do NOT consume the hand sanitizer for any reason, and;
- Avoid over-applying hand sanitizer.
References & Resources
- Safer at Home: Your Guide to the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures
- 16 Safer Disinfectants to Use Against Coronavirus
- The Disinfection Enlightenment—Helping to Keep Homes and Workplaces Cleaner and Safer During a Pandemic
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was devastating and, at times, appears as though it will never end.
However, it has become necessary--for the health and safety of our children and the function of our economies--for many to return to work.
That return does not have to pose a personal or public health risk if specific proven methods of individual and facility care are practiced.
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!
In Bakersfield CA, call (661) 437-3253
In Fresno CA, call (559) 206-1059
In Valencia CA, or Santa Clarita CA, call (661) 437-3253
In Palmdale CA, or Lancaster CA, call (661) 371-4756