Environmental Services Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus

With 4,226 con­firmed coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) infec­tions in the Unit­ed States (as of 3–17-20), health­care facil­i­ties have been putting pro­ce­dures in place to man­age the virus should it dark­en their doorstep.

When a dan­ger­ous out­break occurs, our minds go direct­ly to pre­vent­ing the spread by human behav­ior (Prop­er hand wash­ing is still the top pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure even with some­thing as dan­ger­ous as the coro­n­avirus). But, the oth­er side of the equa­tion in infec­tion pre­ven­tion is stop­ping the trans­mis­sion via the envi­ron­ment (e.g. sur­faces in a facil­i­ty).

An abstract pub­lished on the Nation­al Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­o­gy Infor­ma­tion states that 22 stud­ies have found that oth­er types of human coro­n­avirus­es (such as SARS, MERS and HCoV) can per­sist on sur­faces like met­al, glass or plas­tic for up to 9 days at room tem­per­a­ture.

ES Optimizer Users Weigh In

We asked some of the Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Direc­tors using ES Opti­miz­er how they are prepar­ing their team to han­dle COVID-19 in the event there is an infec­tion at their facil­i­ty. They are work­ing with their Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion and Com­pli­ance pro­fes­sion­als on estab­lish­ing and fol­low­ing pro­to­cols to ster­il­ize the envi­ron­ment.

An effec­tive response involves:

1. Disinfecting the environment when COVID-19 is present

EVS pro­fes­sion­als must ensure they have the right clean­ing agents on hand by fol­low­ing CDC rec­om­men­da­tions to deter­mine which dis­in­fec­tants are effec­tive against the virus. They also must adhere to instruc­tions for prop­er use and pro­to­col exact­ly. See the CDC Advi­so­ry for types of dis­in­fec­tants that are effec­tive against COVID-19.

2. Keeping EVS professionals who are cleaning the environment safe

Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Tech­ni­cians per­form­ing the work must have the appro­pri­ate PPE (per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment). Hos­pi­tals need to plan ahead and pro­cure this if they don’t already have it. EVS pro­fes­sion­als must be trained in prop­er don­ning and doff­ing pro­ce­dure for PPE so the virus isn’t trans­mit­ted by the equip­ment. The CDC pro­vides guide­lines for this as well.

3. Safely discarding waste

EVS depart­ments have to famil­iar­ize them­selves with CDC guide­lines for safe waste dis­pos­al, then devel­op a process that puts the hos­pi­tal in com­pli­ance. One EVS Department’s pol­i­cy will be to wrap the PPE and clean­ing mate­ri­als three times in red bio­haz­ard bags and then auto­clave it.

4. A plan to ensure compliance with these and CDC protocols by the staff

Hav­ing a pol­i­cy is the first step. Mobi­liz­ing the work­force to fol­low it is next. EVS depart­ments need to devel­op strate­gies for relay­ing emerg­ing infor­ma­tion about the coro­n­avirus to employ­ees, and make cer­tain that all EVS pro­fes­sion­als are fol­low­ing CDC guide­lines.

One facil­i­ty has iden­ti­fied a few spe­cial­ly skilled EVS tech­ni­cians who will han­dle the affect­ed areas should the time come. They are receiv­ing reg­u­lar train­ing and updates on the pro­ce­dures. Lim­it­ing this func­tion to a few high-per­form­ing employ­ees makes man­ag­ing com­pli­ance eas­i­er.

More Resources

Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion is best man­aged with a col­lab­o­ra­tion between human inter­ac­tion and the envi­ron­ment. Envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices teams help to main­tain a safe envi­ron­ment, mak­ing them a crit­i­cal part of the hos­pi­tal, infec­tion pre­ven­tion, and patient health. Below are more resources for facil­i­ties and envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices pro­fes­sion­als to track devel­op­ments in the COVID-19 out­break as new infor­ma­tion is dis­sem­i­nat­ed by the experts.