Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Corporate Environmental Advisors

Protecting Customers from COVID-19

Over the past month Corporate Environmental Advisors (CEA) has been intimately involved in helping our clients with the process of re-opening facilities. Specifically, building owners/operators are required by the State of Massachusetts to develop a risk management plan to address both worker and customer safety as relates to COVID-19. Given that COVID-19 will likely be with us for at least the next several months we have been helping our clients with re-opening plans to address the ongoing risk, particularly at facilities where there will be meetings, conferences or some degree of gatherings and group interaction. Because CEA has existing bench strength regarding infectious diseases and preparation of pandemic response plans, we have been glad to assist our clients in readying their facilities for the phased re-opening.

Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a ‘best practice measure’ for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings.” The CDC has reported that COVID-19 can remain viable on certain surfaces for 1 to 3 days. However, one healthcare facility recently found that COVID-19 remained in an uncleaned room for 17 days.

The CDC offers two strategies to remove the threat of COVID-19:

  • Cleaning, which refers to removing dirt and impurities, including viruses, from surfaces. Not that cleaning by itself does not kill viruses. However, removing the viruses decreases their number and lowers the risk of spreading infection. Soap and a detergent with water are used for cleaning. Note that mechanical action/contact with the surface is needed; the technique of fogging alone, for example, may not alone accomplish sufficient cleaning. USEPA just issued new guidance on April 1, 2020 for cleaning and disinfecting electronics; and
  • Disinfecting, which uses U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered chemicals, or disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. As CDC points out, “this process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. But killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.”

However, it is important to realize that the above two steps, cannot verify the absence of COVID-19; only verification via scientific testing can provide this answer. This third step of verification has a two-part process: field instrumentation testing, and off-site laboratory testing specific to COVID-19.

Therefore, if the owner/operator needs technically (and potentially legally) defensible documentation of the absence of COVID-19, it should engage both a professional cleaner and a verification consultant. It is possible in some settings to obtain the services of the verification consultant, which are typically one-tenth or less of the cost of cleaning. Note that the verification specialist should not be retained by the cleaner, to avoid a conflict of interest. However, a verification consultant can hire the cleaning firm, and some owners have elected this approach to provide a single point of contact. With this approach, if re-cleaning is needed, the cost is typically not borne by the customer.

Additionally, once the facility has been reopened it is incumbent on the owner/operator to provide appropriate ongoing cleaning and verification to demonstrate that COVID-19 is absent. Both regular maintenance cleaning by janitorial staff followed by confirmation testing using wipe sampling of surfaces for COVID-19 lab analysis can be key components of an ongoing risk management strategy. CEA is working with three microbiology labs that can provide 24 to 48 hour turnaround for COVID-19 wipe samples using laboratory analysis using the CDC RT-PCR Lab protocol. CEA can work with building owners/operators to develop an appropriate COVID-19 risk management strategy to provide your team with peace of mind regarding both the safety of your employees and your customers.

Joseph Campisi is President of Corporate Environmental Advisors (CEA), Westborough, MA. CEA is a national environmental consultancy serving New England from offices in MA, NH, and ME.