A DISSERTATION on safely opening our region
Here in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy just announced his plan called “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health.” This plan is a step in the right direction, but it does not shed any light on what our state government has been doing while we have been “sheltering in place.”
While we’ve been “flatting the curve”, my company, All American Restoration has been at the forefront of disinfecting first responders vehicles and municipalities in New Jersey from COVID-19.
Prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic, All American Restoration has been a pioneer in biological remediation focused on individuals who are highly susceptible to environmentally acquired illness. With this being a large subset of the population, there is a need for increased protocols on biological cleanup methodologies.These protocols, developed by my team at All American Restoration, led to increased engineering controls and practices that go above and beyond industry standards.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve taken each opportunity at a municipality to properly advise their first responders on how to disinfect properly and keep people safe during this pandemic.
All too often, we have seen improper protocols being used throughout the remediation process. A chief cause of this stems from the lack of licensing or guidelines being set from individual states and the Federal Government. These improper protocols have made their way into the COVID-19 disinfecting space.
A fog application of the disinfectant, in theory, should destroy the outer protein layer of the virus but without actually wiping down the fomites or contact points, there’s no way to ensure eradication.
All forms of biological cleanup require a wet wipe of surfaces and Covid-19 cleanup should be no different. Fogging as a stand-alone may miss the mark on fully eradicating the virus from the space. This could lead to problems as individuals enter the space thinking it’s 100% eradicated.
The products used to remove the virus also need to be carefully considered. Some products contain chemicals that could lead to toxicity when exposed in high quantities for long periods of time. Professionals should know what’s in the products they’re using, the risks of exposure, as well as the proper dwell time and how to apply them.
Throughout this pandemic,” I’ve been working with my team to put together simple, yet effective measures that all businesses and municipalities should take in order to open our region back up in phases.
We’ve come at this from a scientific and practicality standpoint. At some point in the near future, we will have hit the metrics set by the federal guidelines on re-opening businesses.
The below guidelines are measures that should be taken to open safely and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A Decon Chamber at Entry
A Decon chamber should be at every entrance where occupants would enter the establishment. Prefabricated units can be purchased for less than $300 or custom ones can be built using 6 mil polyethylene plastic. This Decon chamber should be under negative pressure.
The Decon chamber should be manned with one personnel who ensures the patron is wearing a mask and sanitizes their hands upon entry.
A forehead thermometer should be used on the patron to ensure they do not have any signs of fever. Even a low grade fever should be a deterrent against entering a facility.
Daily Sanitation Protocols
Personnel should be in charge of ensuring a daily sanitation protocol is being adhered to. This sanitation protocol must include constant sanitation of all fomites that are potentially being exposed to the virus.
A mandate should be in place that all businesses must adhere to these strict sanitation guidelines and all public must wear a mask in order to enter businesses and other facilities. Businesses should be shut down if they do not adhere to the guidelines. Patrons not adhering to the guidelines should be refused entrance to establishments.
Establishments with seating should relocate tables to ensure they are 6 feet apart from one another. Each table should be sanitized using an EPA registered N-List product prior to opening, and after each table is occupied before the next occupant is seated.
All staff should be required to wear masks and staff should wash their hands after each interaction with a patron.
Regulating Disinfecting Companies and Guidelines
Companies offering disinfecting services should be required to be licensed to do so and they should have at least 2 years of documented experience in the biological cleanup space to obtain licensing.
The protocol for cleaning should focus on three separate areas:
- Initial disinfecting
- Daily disinfecting
- Establishments with seating
Initial professional cleanings should be done prior to the initial re-opening that includes cleaning of the HVAC system that’s been recently known to be a culprit in spreading the virus.
The protocol for initial disinfecting should be as follows:
- Isolate the space under negative pressure
- Turn off HVAC and seal up all HVAC penetrations
- Apply EPA registered N-List disinfectant to all surfaces inside the space
- Perform wipe down of all surfaces of the establishment using microfiber towels
The protocol for daily disinfecting should be as follows:
- Apply EPA registered N-list disinfectant to all fomites(contact points) or surfaces that have been in contact with staff and patrons
- Perform wipe down of all fomites and surfaces that have been disinfected using microfiber towels
The protocol for disinfecting establishments with seating should be as follows:
- Apply EPA registered N-list disinfectant of all seating and tables immediately after the patrons vacate the table
- Perform wipe down of all seating and tables using microfiber towels after application. This process should be applied in between each time new patrons are seated.
Proposed Phasing Plan:
All essential businesses should implement this action plan immediately as part of phase 0.
30-day notice should be given for businesses to comply with this action plan. After 30 days, businesses whom are able to comply can open. (For example should we announce to re-open non-essential businesses on June 15th, this mandate should execute on May 15th to allow businesses time to secure the proper implementations towards re-opening). Businesses that comply can open during phase 1.
There should be additional phases to follow that ease restrictions as the trajectory shows that the threat of the virus has dissipated.
While I understand these guidelines may be met with opposition, the reality is this is a small price to pay for businesses to be able to re-open their business. Due to the fact that it takes 5-7 days to obtain test results and the fact that certain people can be asymptomatic, we need these protocols in place to be able to re-open the country safely. Without these strict measures in place, we could experience a second wave of the spread of the virus much like how we experienced a second wave of the Spanish flu back in 1918. This proposal outlines a safe, feasible, and effective way towards opening the country back up.
Michael Rubino is the President of All American Restoration, the nation’s leading company for indoor air quality services for immunocompromised individuals. He is on the council for the National Small Business Association, representing small businesses to members of congress. He holds multiple state licenses with the Department of Labor, is certified by the IICRC and ACAC and he is a contributing member, educator, and sponsor of the IAQA.
He can be reached at [email protected]