What Facility Managers Need to Know About COVID-19
We’ve heard about it in the news for weeks now, but it’s finally stateside: the COVID-19 coronavirus. Now that people are standing in long lines at the grocery store searching for rice, toilet paper, disinfectants and bottled water—and hand sanitizer has been sold out for weeks—it’s time to think about how to plan for the presence of the virus in your building.
How can you prepare your building so that you keep the infection from spreading? What is true about how the virus spreads, and what falsehoods can you ignore?
Here’s what you need to know to share with your janitorial staff as the spread of the virus ramps up.
Why Infection Control Is Crucial
For the vast majority of people who contract the coronavirus, it feels a lot like the flu, with some achiness, a fever and a dry cough. If this is the case, why are we being so careful, and what is the need for such elaborate precautions? After all, we don’t do this for the flu.
When the elderly and those with comorbidities contract COVID-19, the virus can grow into something much more serious. Also, since this is a new strain of virus, no one has an existing immunity. This is why the infection is spreading so quickly
Because of this lack of “herd immunity,” hospitals can potentially get overcrowded by people who are infected. This is why the idea of “flattening the curve” and slowing the rate of transmission is so crucial—to give hospitals time to prepare and prevent overcrowding. It’s why so many schools and colleges are switching to online classes for the remainder of the semester or ending the semester early.
Facilities managers need to know how to prevent the spread of the virus in their buildings. One of the main ways is to give accurate advice on cleaning protocol to your janitorial staff.
Can the Coronavirus Spread Via Contaminated Surfaces?
Many building managers are wondering if the COVID-19 virus can spread from touching a surface that is contaminated by the virus.
Currently, the answer to this question is “probably.” While this is not the main way the virus spreads, there’s still a distinct possibility that a person can contract the disease after touching a contaminated surface and then wiping their face, touching their mouth or nose, and rubbing their eyes. There’s still a lot left to discover about how this virus functions, but there’s evidence to show that it’s possible.
Evidence suggests that the COVID-19 coronavirus is able to live on a surface anywhere between a few hours and several days. The World Health Organization recommends careful disinfection of high-touch surfaces to help keep the occupants of your building safe.
Infection Control: What Needs to Happen in Your Building
What can your janitorial staff do to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in your building? Because the virus can indeed spread by touching a contaminated surface, it’s crucial to spend time cleaning high-touch surfaces across your entire building.
- Tables, desks and countertops
- Doorknobs, handles and push plates or push bars on doors
- Toilets, faucets, sinks
- Hard-backed chairs
- Elevator buttons
Do you have a plan in place for how your commercial cleaning service should handle disinfecting these high-touch surfaces? As a building manager, you can help establish a protocol to reduce the risk of transmission in your building.
How should you advise your janitorial team to care for these high-touch surfaces?
- Use EPA-disinfectants to clean all surfaces. Read the label instructions, and follow them carefully; you are working with strong chemicals.
- Remind your janitorial staff about the importance of disinfecting your building, paying close attention to these high-touch areas.
Put up signs in the bathrooms and eating areas to remind your janitorial team and your building occupants how important it is to wash their hands properly (and often), and use hand sanitizer whenever possible.
It is your responsibility as a facility manager to provide regular and increased cleanings in your workplace to manage the spread of infections and to routinely clean work surfaces like phones, door handles, keyboards, computer mouses, remote controls and anything that is touch-operated.
Especially in places like schools or offices, where there are already lots of germs, and lots of people in enclosed spaces, you should make sure you have a team who are all well-equipped to handle disinfection in your building.
What Should You Do If Someone in Your Building is Sick with the Coronavirus?
If someone in your building is sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus, what can you ask of your janitorial staff? How should they clean and sanitize your building?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends several procedures to disinfect your building after an affected person enters your building. It is a good idea to pass these procedures on to your janitorial team:
- Close off any areas that were occupied by the sick person. Then delay cleaning as long as possible to keep the risk of potential exposure to respiratory droplets at bay.
- Open up doors and windows to the outside in areas used by the ill person to aid air circulation, and wait for 24-plus hours before starting to clean and sanitize the building.
- Have your commercial cleaning service clean and sanitize all areas used by the infected person(s), with extra focus on any high-touch surfaces.
- Clean surfaces with a solution of alcohol in water (70% alcohol), an EPA-registered disinfectant or a solution of bleach in water.
- Bleach is an incredibly strong chemical and needs to be used properly. It should only be used in areas with the right ventilation and never mixed with ammonia or any products containing ammonia.
- A solution of five tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water can be made to disinfect your building.
- Porous or fibrous surfaces like carpet or fabric should only be cleaned with the appropriate products. Washable fabrics should be cleaning in the washing machine on the warmest possible setting.
- Your cleaning staff should wear gloves and gowns to disinfect and during all parts of the cleaning process. Gloves also should be removed properly and switched if they ever rip or tear.
- After removing gloves and gowns, janitorial staff should follow up with thorough handwashing.
If you’re worried about how to keep your building safe, maybe it’s time to bring in the professionals.
At Seven Stars Services, we specialize in cleaning schools and offices and know what procedures to use to disinfect your building to minimize the spread of any kind of infection. We know the communities of Richmond and Harrisburg and are committed to keeping its residents safe and their buildings clean.
We offer all kinds of services. Take a look at our special packages or request a quote today. We’re ready with gloves and disinfectants to sanitize your building whenever you need it.