There has been a lot of press coverage about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV). The coronavirus outbreak has infected an estimated 87.4M people worldwide and, as of this update (1/7/21) at least 1.89M people have died.
An International Health Emergency
On January 30, 2020 The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus an international health emergency. In a press conference, WHO said that approximately 4% of people who get the disease die - which is low compared to other coronaviruses like SARS (11%) and MERS (35%), but this number is likely to change.
WHO is working closely with global experts to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to protect the public health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.
According to WHO, the standard recommendation is to limit exposure and practice hand and respiratory hygiene. They have created printable and shareable instructions to protect occupants and others from getting sick - download and share them with your Facility Directors and employees.
To date, several complex treatment modalities have been identified, but no one medication can treat the new coronavirus. WHO has released a detailed guide for infection prevention and control during health care when novel coronavirus infection is suspected. The main clinical signs and symptoms reported in this outbreak include fever, difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing bilateral lung infiltrates.
*1/7/2021 update: several vaccines have received approval, including from both Pfizer and Moderna, approved for emergency use.
Since human-to-human transmission has been confirmed, anyone feeling these symptoms should quarantine themselves away from others.
Protect your Employees
Protecting your facility and its occupants to your best ability is important. According to all reliable sources, sanitation is your best defense.
During this time of increased risk, here are some tips you can use to help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria in your facility:
- Encourage employees to wash hands regularly and wear gloves if they usually touch items from other occupants.
- Place hand sanitizer in areas where soap and water are not available to help employees keep hands clean and reduce the spread of germs.
- Hang educational signs around the office as reminders to wash hands frequently, the proper method of hand-washing and using hand sanitation as a way to stay protected from viruses.
- Replace your HVAC and indoor air filters often to prevent any buildup and minimize the number of airborne particles in your building. This will help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns and the possibility of germs spreading through ventilation. Maintaining healthy indoor air quality is an important step for every employee’s health.
- Advocate a clean desk policy and have staff keep most items tucked away when they’re not in use.
- Items like pens and notepads can be in drawers where they are safe from most virus transmission. This will also allow professional cleaning staff to do a deeper clean to those empty surfaces at night.
- Provide disinfecting wipes and UV sanitizing wands around the office. UV sanitizing wands and room sanitizers can kill up to 99.9 percent of germs, viruses, bacteria and allergens from hard surfaces and fabrics. Smaller versions are portable, easy to use and can be a good addition to any facility. This will encourage employees to keep their personal areas clean on a regular basis.
- To make cleaning personal spaces more formal and a little fun, have “clean your desk” afternoons to promote cleaning habits.
- Remind employees to take their cups and dishes home regularly and wash them in the dishwasher or with hot water and dish detergent.
- Educate employees that their cell phone, keys and desk may be home to 400% more germs than a toilet seat!
- Consider supporting work from home policies or encouraging employees that display any symptoms to stay home. (All that disinfection and surface cleaning that is completed each night can be undone by one sick employee!)
- Get the pros involved.
- If you already outsource your facilities management, meet with your nightly cleaning staff or contact your account manager to see what cleaning techniques are available at your site.
- If you have an internal cleaning team, make sure they complete a deep clean to all surfaces and pay specific attention to high touch areas each night.
- Despite the great talents of your internal team, you may still want to contact facilities sanitation experts. Professionals may have access to advanced services, like electrostatic misting, that will quickly remove all surface and airborne germs from a room, and they can provide a cleaning professional’s insight into adjusting your daily cleaning activities to reduce future contamination.