With both Wall Street and Main Street businesses grappling with rising COVID-19 cases, 44 percent of New York companies have officially delayed their return-to-office plans until October and, in some cases, into 2022. As the Delta variant continues to spread across the U.S., the real estate industry, facilities managers, employers, and building occupants must rethink their best practices and adopt a more holistic view of safety that prioritizes worker health.
With this in mind, the Cleaning Coalition of America, a trade group that represents cleaning service professionals nationwide, has released Clean Slate: A Reopening Guide for New York Businesses. The white paper, developed in coordination with independent experts in infectious disease and environmental hygiene, outlines recommendations for how businesses can maintain a safe and healthy workplace and mitigate the spread of viruses.
“The pandemic has put a lot of stress on business owners, and figuring out the process and procedures for proper disinfection of the workplace can be an overwhelming project,” said Josh Feinberg, President of the Cleaning Coalition of America. “The Cleaning Coalition of America’s new white paper arms businesses with the necessary tools for maintaining a healthy workplace and ensuring the safety of employees, customers, and professional cleaners working on the front lines.”
Mitigating The Spread Of Pathogens
Offices are breeding grounds for disease-causing pathogens – not only COVID-19, but other viruses such as influenza and the common cold. The contamination of a single commonly-touched area can impact between 40 percent to 60 percent of other surfaces in less than half a day – and in some cases within two hours. If unmitigated, office-borne illnesses can quickly spread and pose financial challenges to businesses and commercial landlords. The flu alone creates an economic burden for the healthcare system and society of $11.2 billion per year, while costing the U.S. approximately 20 million workdays per year.
Cleaning and routine disinfecting are critical to mitigating the spread of pathogens and can reduce rates of cold, influenza, and stomach illness by 80 percent. As companies look to reopen, Clean Slate: A Reopening Guide For New York Businesses details the steps that businesses should consider when developing their comprehensive cleaning protocols:
- Initial Site Assessment: Perform an initial site assessment to help businesses plan and prepare for building and occupant health and safety.
- Decontamination Plan: Develop a decontamination plan in partnership with trained cleaning professionals to ensure a streamlined response should a positive COVID-19 case be reported.
- Occupant Communication Signage Kits: Prioritize clear and consistent communication through signage and transparent updates to help employees adhere to the rules of the building – including keeping spaces clean – and feel comfortable returning to the workplace.
- High-Touch Disinfection: Adopt more robust, frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces using EPA-registered disinfectants qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, and supplement that with advanced technologies like ultraviolet disinfection and electrostatic spraying.
- Broader Disinfection: Disinfect large surface areas to complement the scope enhancements and increased frequencies of high touch point cleaning and disinfecting. Note that the right method of deployment and proper training is essential to ensure efficacy and safety.
“With experts classifying herd immunity as unlikely, the omnipresent fear of contracting COVID-19, a new variant, or the next highly transmissible illness will likely take years to fade,” said Dr. Ruth Carrico, Executive Director of the Infectious Disease Institute for Norton Healthcare and External Advisor to the Cleaning Coalition of America. “Now more than ever, businesses must embrace the public health lessons of the pandemic and adopt comprehensive cleaning protocols that are proven to reduce the spread of viruses and keep people healthier.”
The report reflects the opinions and recommendations of all seven Cleaning Coalition of America members, including Able Services, ABM Industries, Building Service Contractors Association International, Collins Building Services Inc., GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc., Harvard Maintenance, and Marsden Services.