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Reopening America

Protecting Public and Commercial Spaces from COVID-19 

  1. Can public and commercial spaces be effectively cleaned and disinfected to protect people from the novel coronavirus?

Yes. Disinfectants can kill COVID-19. People can be protected from the virus in offices, schools, daycare centers, restaurants, factories and hospitals as long as cleaning is frequent and follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The more trafficked the spaces are, the more disinfecting that’s required.   

  1. Has the government identified disinfectants that defeat COVID-19?

Yes. The EPA has put the disinfectants that it has approved for use against COVID-19 on List N. HCPA members worked with the EPA in 2016 to accelerate the availability of disinfectants during a public health crisis by helping to establish the Emerging Viral Pathogens claims process. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, 400 products have been added to List N. These products have active ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, citric acid and quaternary ammonium. Check the EPA registration number on the back of the label to be sure the product is on List N.

  1. Is it difficult to keep commercial spaces clean and protected?

No. But proper disinfecting requires vigilance. Dirty surfaces must be cleaned before an approved disinfectant is applied.

Disinfectants should be left on surfaces for long enough that the active ingredients have sufficient time to work. Contact times vary by product and surface, so check the label for directions.

If a disinfectant from List N is not available, the CDC suggests that alternative disinfectants can be used. While this may not be as effective against COVID-19 as a product from List N, it will help reduce the risk of exposure during the pandemic.  

  1. How often must cleanings occur in public and commercial spaces to make them safe?

Often. But there’s no one-size-fits-all interval. That will depend on the type of space, its location, the amount of traffic it gets and the types of materials that need to be disinfected. Areas that are unoccupied for seven or more days need only routine cleaning. Frequently touched surfaces, on the other hand, should be disinfected regularly.

Cleaning and disinfecting commercial and public places should be tailored to the facility or workplace. The process will vary depending on location, products used and frequency of use of the space. Airplanes should be disinfected after each leg of a flight. Banking ATMs need to be wiped down more often.

  1. What needs to be done to keep workplaces clean and safe?

Repeatedly used objects in public places, such as shopping carts and point-of-sale keypads, should be cleaned and disinfected before each use. Other objects that need special attention include doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. At the same time, no cleaning method is perfect. People should continue to stay at least six feet apart and wear masks to prevent person-to-person spread of the disease.

Cleaning workers will need to be hired and trained at a rapid clip. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published standards for cleaning and disinfecting services in commercial and public spaces. Employers are required to follow OSHA’s mandates and provide proper personal protective equipment.

  1. Are there enough disinfecting products to accomplish such frequent and broad-scale cleaning? 

Makers of disinfecting products are doing everything they can, including working around the clock, to make sure there are enough disinfecting products to protect against COVID-19. The EPA is helping by keeping the supply chain open to produce List N disinfectant ingredients. To widen availability of hand sanitizer, the Food and Drug Administration has opened additional sources of ethanol.

  1. Is the need for more commercial cleaning the reason the federal government has declared the makers of cleansers and disinfectants critical?

Yes. Deep cleaning of commercial and public spaces is essential for reopening the economy and returning to normal life. For this reason, disinfectant manufacturers and their workers have been deemed essential critical infrastructure workers by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

  1. Are disinfecting products widely available enough to reopen the whole U.S. economy safely?

Cleanser and disinfectant producers have been able to keep up with the gradual opening that’s rolling out across the U.S. The industry is cautiously optimistic that supply will keep up with the increasing demand.

  1. Cleaning alone isn’t enough to protect public and commercial spaces, correct?

Correct. Cleaners by themselves are not enough, but they play a critical role. Use a cleanser to prepare the surface by removing dirt, followed by a disinfectant to kill any harmful germs. Social distancing is also vital and, when needed, so is shielding between workspaces. In addition, disinfecting with effective products must accompany regular cleanings.

  1. What other precautions need to be taken to keep employees and citizens protected?

People should stay home if they feel ill. In addition to social distancing, they should practice proper hygiene, including frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  1. Does the combination of cleaning and disinfecting work?

Yes. Cleaning and disinfecting together can be effective against COVID-19. There will always be some risk, but a clean environment minimizes the chance of people contracting COVID-19. Disinfectants and cleaners should be used as their labels recommend and should never be ingested or applied directly to the skin.

  1. Can more confined spaces, such as public transportation and elevators, be cleaned adequately?

Yes. Every environment requires its own set of protocols to minimize the risk of contamination, but each of these environments can be cleaned and disinfected effectively. The CDC addresses how a variety of locations, from schools to parks, should be cleaned and disinfected on the left side of this document.

CDC Guidance for Reopening Public Spaces 

The CDC issued guidance to help public spaces, such as workplaces, restuarants, schools, and mass transit, determine if the're prepared to reopen amid the coroanavirus pandemic. These decisions should always be made in accordance with recommendations from state and local government and health officials.

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