The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 disease has already had a profound impact on how we live our daily lives. What is not clear is how things will progress in the future and what impact it will have on our daily lives. The World Health Organization has designated the outbreak as a pandemic which will likely heighten the general public’s concern.
People exposed to the COVID-19 virus can have a wide range of symptoms from mild flu-like symptoms to extremely serious consequences and death. According to Bloomberg News - How the Virus Kills, the problem starts when the virus colonizes in the nose and throat. If it remains there, the symptoms are mild. The problem intensifies when the virus travels to the respiratory tract where it invades epithelial cells that line and protect the airways. If the virus reaches the lower branches of the respiratory tree and lung tissue the patient’s condition can become dire. Pneumonia and related lung damage occur. Additional secondary damage can be caused by the body’s immune system responding to the infection.
The mode of infection is primarily due to the inhalation of virus laden droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes. The current thinking (March 2020) by OSHA is that environmental exposures such as coming in contact with contaminated surfaces is a secondary source of infection. However, since the virus transmission is not fully understood, employers should carefully evaluate whether work areas occupied by people suspected to have the virus needs to be decontaminated.
The CDC suggests that Novel Coronavirus may remain viable on surfaces made from a variety of materials from hours to days.
How much cleaning is enough? Generally, cleaning is limited to areas occupied by people suspected of having the virus, As a minimum all high contact surfaces need to be disinfected as outlined by OSHA and CDC. The cleaning would include door knobs, hand rails, common area surfaces, tables, hard backed chairs, key boards and desks but would not include for example books and papers on a desk, surfaces under the papers or soft surfaces. Routine cleaning is limited to high contact surfaces.
Protecting the cleaners is another concern. Routine preventive maintenance cleaning may only require surgical type gloves. More in-depth cleaning may also require clothing protection and possibly a NIOSH N95 respirator. PPE should be decided on a case by case basis.
Cashins & Associates, Inc. is always available to work with clients to develop programs and provide guidance as to decontamination procedures.