Requiring face masks and social distancing can help keep employees safe from one another. Including sanitation stations and thorough disinfection will also help eliminate the virus from your facility at that moment in time.
However, a completely disinfected building can be ruined by one contagious carrier.
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Educating employees about potential symptoms and allowing time off if employees aren’t well can help reduce germs from entering your building. But the SARS-COV-2 virus can be physically undetectable in some people, and others can be contagious but not have any symptoms for up to 14 days.
Two or more weeks is a long time to have a virus floating around your facility undetected.
New Technology is Promoting the Testing of Buildings Over People
It would be very expensive (and tedious) to test every building occupant for COVID-19 every day. There would also be tons of paperwork and security protocols, not to mention the potential liability issues based on health information violations and false test results.
However, buildings are not protected by health information acts, they don’t have prior health issues, and they will submit to any test you want.
New technology, developed and tested at the University of Oregon, allows for thorough testing of the facility, which can take place on a daily basis, and give you faster results. Since multiple areas within the facility can be tested, and tests can occur each day, if positive results spike, it allows for contact tracing within different areas of the facility.
Swabs are taken from air ducts, air filters, and surfaces from around the building. If any tests come back positive for the coronavirus, containment, and disinfection can happen quickly.
Asymptomatic individuals not experiencing any symptoms, but are carriers of SARS-COV-2, will leave behind contact traces of the virus. Narrowing down the portion of the facility where the virus was detected may help you find the individuals that are unknowingly exposing others to the virus.
Testing high-touch surfaces can provide an early indication of infections in your facility. These tests can help discover what personnel may be infected, those that could have been exposed to the virus, and even help identify how the virus came into the building.
Reduce Chances for Contamination
Even though undeniable scientific evidence on how SARS-COV-2 is transmitted has not been documented, the fact that it spreads quickly leads experts to believe that the virus may have multiple ways of being transmitted from a carrier.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued statements that “transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, toys, etc." However, SARS-COV-2 may continue to be active for hours or days on some materials and continue to spread from person – to material – to person.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that airborne transmission of the coronavirus cannot be ruled out, especially in "crowded, closed, and poorly ventilated settings.”
Beyond the governing experts, the BBC reported that 239 scientists from 32 countries say there is also strong evidence to suggest the virus can spread in the air and float around for hours after people talk or breathe.
While SARS-COV-2 droplets have shown that they degrade over time, studies have determined that the virus has the potential for a prolonged tenacity on some surfaces (up to 3 days). Due to this, transmission through contaminated surfaces is a possible route of exposure.
Release Your Inner Detective
Testing your facility will not provide all the answers at once, but it will allow you to detect the virus and then narrow down the suspects.
The process is like the game of Clue – discovering the virus on a macro level (such as on the air filters) and then narrowing down the areas (and individuals) quickly to discover where and how the virus has entered the building.
Validate Your Current Disinfection Methods
The testing process can also assure visitors your business is free of detectable coronavirus, and that you take proactive measures when contamination is found.
In an NBC news story, an investigative reporter used a COVID-19 test for surfaces to conduct multiple surface tests across the US. Reporters and staff tested elevators, shopping carts, menus, and playgrounds. The results concluded that around 5% of the items tested were positive for SARS-COV-2. The areas were predominantly high-touch surfaces within high-traffic facilities.
The investigation also showed that current prevention measures might be working well.
You now have the ability to apply similar surface tests within your facility. By testing common areas, you can determine indoor exposure to COVID-19 and demonstrate the efficacy of your routine cleaning. It will also help you find any asymptomatic personnel or those that are not experiencing symptoms yet and quarantine and disinfect their areas.
These tests are not meant to replace other precautions. They are merely another valuable tool to aid in the curbing of the pandemic within your facility.
As you begin looking into surface tests, make sure you are working with an integrated facilities management and/or janitorial company that will customize your scope of work (SOW) to allow for impact adjusting – and can easily adjust to apply the most effort in the areas of greatest need.