PPE & Disinfection Requirements Have Changed During The COVID-19 Pandemic
While scientists and healthcare providers are learning more every day about COVID-19, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The current understanding of this and similar coronaviruses, for example, SARS and MERS, is that it can be spread from person-to-person who are in close contact with each other.
The transmission of COVID-19 occurs much more commonly via respiratory droplets than through fomites. Even though the chances for infection via contact with surfaces is lower than via respiratory droplets, it’s still crucial to take extended precautions when interacting with surfaces or areas that have been exposed to the virus.
Here are some of the precautions, procedures, and protective equipment that you should be aware of if you are going to come in contact with people, places, or things that may have been exposed.
Wear The Appropriate PPE Apparel
Personal protection equipment, or PPE, is going to be your first line of defense against the virus. Whether you are a healthcare worker dealing directly with patients or someone who may be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing exposed surfaces, you should always make sure you have the appropriate PPE.
No matter what your role is, there are a few PPE items you should be utilizing when you are coming into contact with potentially exposed people or places. First, a good protective mask is a must-have item. The ‘gold standard’ in protective masks right now is the N95 or it’s alternate, the KN95 mask in China or the European FFP2.
This mask is FDA approved and will filter at least 95% of airborne particles. It is what’s known as a “mechanical filter respirator”, as it will protect against particulates but not against gases or vapors.
Another must-have item to keep yourself safe is sterile latex gloves. As you come into contact with different surfaces and individuals, gloves will add an additional barrier between you and the virus particles. Keep in mind, it’s important to change your gloves after any time you come in to contact with someone or something, so make sure to have a good supply on hand.
In addition to these must-have items, there are several other PPE items that will protect you from the virus depending on your potential for exposure. These include face shields, goggles, gowns, shoe coverings, head coverings, and more. While some of these items may not be necessary for someone who is not coming into direct contact with patients, healthcare providers should ideally be utilizing most if not all these PPE items as they are treating people with the virus.
Properly Cleaning & Disinfecting A Facility
While hospitals, healthcare centers, and medical centers may already be well versed with proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures, it’s definitely a good idea to refamiliarize yourself with everything during the COVID-19 health crisis. With how easily the virus is transmitted and how long it can exist on surfaces, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to proper disinfection. Here are some tips specific to cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19.
How to Clean and Disinfect
While cleaning and disinfecting are both important when fighting COVID-19, they are two very different processes.
Cleaning can be an “all-encompassing” term that covers everything from some light dusting to high-power pressure cleaning. In the scope of cleaning for COVID-19, the first part of the disinfection process is going to be to clean the surfaces in question with soap and warm water.
While you should make sure to be thorough throughout the entire facility, make sure to pay special attention to high-traffic areas. These include things like tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
Using The Proper Disinfectants
Depending on the surface you plan to disinfect, you will have several options as far as the disinfectants you’ll be using as well as the delivery methods. Some of these options include sterile alcohol sprays, disinfecting wipes, and cleaning solutions like Cavicide.
While disinfecting could be considered a form of cleaning, the main difference here is that some type of disinfectant solution is being used in the process. While there are a number of commercial disinfectants available on the market, the CDC has compiled a full list of approved disinfectants here.
Making Your Own Disinfectants
One of the most effective disinfectant solutions you can make is simply diluted bleach when appropriate for the surface. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
To make a bleach solution, simply mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. If you don’t have bleach available, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, or IPA alcohol, are also very effective.
Proper Cleaning & Disinfecting Procedures
While the risk of exposure for cleaning staff is fairly low, it’s important to follow a few important procedures when cleaning and disinfecting a facility or area within a facility that may have been exposed to Covid-19.
First, make sure to wear the appropriate personal protection equipment. At a bare minimum, you should be wearing gloves and a cleaning gown the entire time you are cleaning. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) might be required based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splashes.
It’s important to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. Make sure that you are washing your hands thoroughly for at least 30 seconds each time. If soap and water are not available, you can use hand sanitizer in certain situations. However, if your hands are visibly dirty, it’s imperative to use soap and water first.
Make sure that as you move to different parts of a facility you are changing PPE regularly. For example, once you’ve finished cleaning and disinfecting a room, you should throw away the gloves and gowns used to avoid transferring anything to another room or person unintentionally.
How To Clean & Disinfect Various Surfaces
In order to properly disinfect something, it’s important to use the right tools for the job. Depending on the type of material or surface, certain disinfectants may be more effective than others or not effective at all.
Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces
If surfaces are visibly dirty, they should first be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Once the surface has been cleaned, you can then use a disinfectant like 70% alcohol to kill any remnant virus particles.
Soft (Porous) Surfaces
For soft, porous surfaces like carpeted floors, rugs, or drapes, your first step should be to remove any visible dust, dirt, or other residues. Once the items have been cleaned, it’s good to use a disinfectant spray as opposed to wipes to thoroughly cover the surface.
If the items can be laundered, make sure to do that on a regular interval and follow the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest appropriate water setting.
For electronics such as smartphones, tablets, touch screens, keyboards, ATM machines, and anything else you may come into contact with, step one is to remove any visible contamination if it is present.
As these items may be sensitive to liquids, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and what disinfection products are appropriate. In most cases, it will be to use a disinfecting wipe to sanitize the device.
If no manufacturer guidance is available, use an alcohol-based wipe with at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid the pooling of liquids.
Linens, Clothing, and Other Items That Go in the Laundry
In order to minimize the possibility of spreading the virus through the air, it’s best not to shake dirty laundry.
Wash items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry them completely. Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
Clean and disinfect hampers or other carts for transporting laundry according to the guidance above for hard or soft surfaces.
Cleaning and Disinfection After Persons With COVID-19 Have Been in the Facility
Start by closing off any areas visited by the infected persons. It’s important to open up the doors and windows in the room or area to ventilate the area. If possible, wait at least 24 hours before going in to clean and disinfect the area. The longer you wait, the lower the chances of coming in contact with any remnant virus.
Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment (like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
If you have a facility that has patients that stay overnight or for extended periods of time, there are some additional precautions that you should be taking.
Follow Interim Guidance for US Institutions of Higher Education on working with state and local health officials to isolate ill persons and provide temporary housing as needed.
Close off areas visited by the ill persons. Open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning to clean and disinfection.
In areas where ill persons are being housed in isolation, follow Interim Guidance for Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection for U.S. Households with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019. This includes focusing on cleaning and disinfecting common areas where staff/others providing services may come into contact with ill persons but reducing cleaning and disinfection of bedrooms/bathrooms used by ill persons to as-needed.
In areas where ill persons have visited or used, continue routine cleaning and disinfection as in this guidance.
If it has been more than 7 days since the person with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
Buying Disinfectants & Personal Protection Equipment
If you’re in need of disinfectant products or personal protection equipment for a hospital, medical center, or sanitation services company, Preferred Medical carries a robust selection of products that are sure to meet your needs. Items such as Cavicide spray and Purell hand sanitizer are available.
Our customer service representatives are standing by to answer your questions Contact us today toll-free at 800-722-7865. We look forward to hearing from you!