As we start to look at a timeline for opening up public spaces, facility managers must consider the necessary social distancing and hygiene practices to ensure safety. In this post, we’ve compiled the cleaning and disinfecting protocols recommended by the CDC as well as suggestions for implementing social distancing and keeping your community healthy.
As you move toward normal operations, there are a few key points to keep in mind. In general, you’ll want to focus on:
- Increasing overall cleaning frequency. For example, if you usually do a deep clean 3x per week, it may be time to move to an every day schedule.
- Disinfecting high touch areas (door knobs, faucets, phones, keyboards etc.) more often—ideally after each use.
- Providing hand sanitizer and masks.
- Limiting class/gathering sizes (and considering special hours for vulnerable populations, if appropriate).
- Encouraging social distancing (e.g. instead of running on a treadmill next to someone, leave two machines in between).
- Communicating protocols through clear signageand email/social media updates.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides specific details on cleaning and disinfecting surface. They recommend first cleaning surfaces with soap and water and then using disinfectant. Per the CDC website, “Cleaning with soap and water reduces the number of germs, dirt and impurities on the surface. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces.” The CDC also recommends only cleaning with disinfectants approved by the EPA to kill the SARS-COV-2 virus.
How to Clean Hard Surfaces like Metal and Plastic
If your facility is unable to procure or use the approved cleaning solutions, you can use unexpired and diluted household bleach to clean hard surfaces. Per the CDC, to make a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons (one-third cup) bleach per gallon of water OR four teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Alternatively, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.
When using cleaning chemicals, be sure to wear gloves and leave the solution on the surface for at least one minute before wiping off.
How to Clean Soft Surfaces Such as Carpeting or Towels
For soft surfaces (e.g. carpets and curtains) clean with soap and water and launder on the warmest setting the item will tolerate. If the item cannot be laundered, use an EPA-approved disinfectant.
Wash laundry on the warmest setting allowed, and then dry thoroughly. Be sure to use gloves if you’ll be handling other people’s laundry(e.g. towels, uniforms, etc.), don’t shake out laundry and clean and disinfect all hampers regularly.
How to Clean Electronics like Phones, Keyboards and Equipment Screens
Consider a removable and wipeable cover for small devices such as iPads and remote controls. For situations when a cover isn’t practical, use a 70% alcohol solution to clean and then wipe the device dry.
How to Clean Outdoor Areas
Be sure to clean all outdoor spaces regularly, but there’s no need to disinfect (it’s generally not an efficient use of supplies). However, high touch areas such as railings should be cleaned with increased frequency. Finally, it is not currently recommended to clean or disinfect wooden structures (playgrounds, picnic tables, etc.) or sidewalks/roads.
What to Do If Someone at Your Facility Gets Sick
If a member of your community exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, immediately take action and close off areas that they recently used or visited. If you can, open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area. Wait at least 24 hours (or as long as possible) before you enter the room to clean and disinfect.
After the 24 hour waiting period, clean and disinfect all areas used by the person. Be sure to give attention to communal areas such as bathrooms, shared electronic equipment, handrails, etc.
Once an area has been appropriately disinfected (using a bleach solution, 70% alcohol solution, or EPA-approved cleaning solution), it can be re-opened for use.
According to the CDC, “If more than 7 days has passed since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
Train and Educate Your Community
As procedures change, be sure to keep employees up to date on proper cleaning measures including how to safely handle hazardous cleaning chemicals, how to properly dispose of trash and what good hand washing looks like.
Provide adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves, masks and disposable gowns to any employee handling waste or in charge of cleaning. Be sure they know how to put the PPE on, take it off and dispose of it properly.
Finally, educate staff and visitors on the symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if they become ill. Maintaining a safe facility will take some extra work, but it’s definitely possible!