Recently the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting against COVID-19. Although informative, many national media outlets reporting left out the details of the recommendations, cutting the bulk of the report in favor of quick headlines. It is essential to clarify the importance of proper cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing protocols and what we’ve come to expect as consumers from the businesses we patronize. Although we are gaining ground on the COVID-19 virus, the main takeaway is that best practices learned over the past year should not be disregarded and placed upon the proverbial shelf.
During the pandemic, proper protocols kept businesses open, kept employees and customers safer, and provided the peace of mind needed to continue operations. Companies across the nation must review their pre-COVID protocols, identify what changed and find a happy medium without reverting to the minimal cleaning procedures of the past. Where businesses land on how they re-calculate their cleaning methods will highly depend on the type of business. And patrons will undoubtedly take notice. For example, a restaurant will need a much higher degree of cleaning than a retail clothing store.
The CDC states, “Cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces by removing contaminants and may also weaken or damage some of the virus particles, which decreases the risk of infection from surfaces.”
The CDC is correct, but businesses may want to continue industry-leading best practices by cleaning more frequently and choosing to disinfect communal areas, especially if high transmissions of COVID-19 continue within the communities they serve. Relaxing cleaning guidelines will likely come with carefree personal hygiene practices from many people. Washing hands, wearing masks, and relaxed social distancing guidelines may have helped reduce infection rates, but these may not continue with the urgency as before. As these recommendations become less practiced and people choose not to receive vaccinations, returning to social activities without safeguards leaves communities at a higher risk. This makes public areas, including restaurants and businesses, more susceptible to increased infection rates.
Additionally, it is essential to emphasize the extreme importance that cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens. Businesses need to remember that cleaning regimens are most effective when a multi-step approach is practiced with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved products. The most effective practice involves first cleaning surfaces to remove or reduce soil loads and disinfect bacteria, fungi, and inactivated viruses.
The other area of clarity involves the use of fogging, fumigating, and wide-area electrostatic spraying. The CDC states that this is not recommended as a primary method of surface disinfection. As this is correct, industry-leading best practices suggest that disinfecting levels need to be determined based on the type of business. When used as part of a comprehensive cleaning regimen, electrostatic sprayers can be highly effective for high-traffic consumer facilities, especially since there is no way of knowing which patrons are vaccinated and which ones are not. When using chemicals and disinfection equipment of any kind, it is essential to read the label and use products correctly to prevent unnecessary overuse and exposure. It is also important to let professionals facilitate the cleaning.
As we gain ground on this pandemic, there are still many uncertainties despite the increased number of vaccinated people. Businesses of all types must continue to practice vigilance in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and its variants as they emerge worldwide, not to mention influenza, norovirus, and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can also negatively impact public health. There are several layers to this issue, and many businesses desire to erase all memories of the previous year to return to pre-COVID activities. We get it. However, it is essential to maintain vigilance. In addition to indoor air quality needs, businesses should continue to utilize cleaning professionals to enhance their cleaning and disinfecting public facilities with added focus on high touchpoints.
We agree with the CDC's guidance and recognize the agency’s continued efforts to fight against COVID. However, we encourage all businesses to read through CDC recommendations thoroughly, not relying solely on short-and-sweet partial reports found in the media when deciding on the best and most effective cleaning and disinfection regimen for their facilities. Our professional experience shows that continued disinfecting, when implemented with a comprehensive cleaning regimen and other social guidelines, can play a role in significantly reducing the risk of infection spread. Businesses that maintain proper cleaning protocols provide employees and customers greater peace of mind and demonstrate a public responsibility toward prioritizing health and safety.