COVID-19, the novel respiratory disease that started in China but has spread into a pandemic, has sickened over 120,000 people around the world and proven particularly dangerous for people with pre-existing health problems and otherwise compromised immune systems. Due to the new nature of the coronavirus, many offices are struggling to issue policies and responses to stop its spread.
“Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.”
Offices, in particular, are at higher risk of cross-infection due to the high number of people who use common spaces. Earlier this week, New York-based real estate office Triplemint had to temporarily shut its doors for deep cleaning after one of its agents became exposed to the coronavirus.
Unlike regular tidying up or spring cleaning, a deep clean requires sterilizing every surface of a space — even ones that are not normally noticed, like blinds or the space behind an oven or a sink.
Professional cleaners will generally guarantee that not just surface-level, but also hidden parts of the property are fully sanitized. Cleaners will generally charge anywhere from $400 for a 2,000-square-foot house and even more for larger offices and commercial buildings.
If the client requires a full level of sterility (the kind of standard required in a hospital, for example), the price climbs even higher.
A clear exposure of coronavirus by a member of the office would likely require these types of professional cleaning services, many more find themselves in situations where they want to curb its spread by cleaning spaces more thoroughly than they had in the past.
Here are the cleaning and disinfection steps currently recommended by the CDC:
1. Know the difference between cleaning and disinfection
Cleaning, or simply taking out the garbage or giving the floor a sweep, is not enough to curb the spread of this disease. After you’ve done that, put on gloves and use disinfecting products with at least 70 percent alcohol to kill germs on surfaces that people touch often.
“Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks),” the agency recommends.
2. This means going beyond what you can see
Along with the most obvious areas, disinfect spaces that are rarely cleaned but often touched. Think blinds, windows as well as the spaces behind tables and desks.
“Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs,” the CDC advises offices in particular.
3. Frequent hand-washing
You’ve heard it before, but washing your hands often is one of the most effective ways to prevent coronavirus infection. While that falls on each person individually, offices could make it easier for their employees by installing no-touch hand-sanitizer dispensers and providing disinfecting wipes that employees can use.
4. Don’t forget the electronics
Electronics, which we all handle hundreds of times a day, can be a hotbed for germs. Along with washing one’s hands, this should be an obvious step given the frequency of use.
“Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use,” the CDC says.
5. Carpets and rugs
A deep clean requires all porous surfaces such as carpets, rugs and drapes to be disinfected and laundered. The CDC recommends washing these items at the warmest possible setting and allowing them to dry completely.
6. Do not panic
Even as the increasing numbers of infections pop across your screen, resist the urge to panic and make decisions out of fear. Routine cleaning and basic precautions are all that’s necessary for most offices and people.
“No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time,” says the CDC.