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Reopening Schools – Choose the Best Tools for the Job

Better cleaning for schools reopening

As COVID-19 slows its pace but maintains a constant threat to our population, global experts remain in the dark over children’s ability to transmit the disease to adults. Despite our government urging schools to reopen, local authorities, parents and many others fear welcoming pupils and staff back en masse.

Schools officials are scrambling to form standard cleaning procedures that deliver complete environmental safety. Every responsible stakeholder must go beyond the basic government guidance and choose the right tools to protect everybody who walks in and out of its doors and the families they go home to.

Child transmission remains a mystery to science

Researchers are uncertain about how this new coronavirus affects children. One study published by the CDC showed that under 18s accounted for under 2% of all cases in the United States. When children contract the disease, they usually experience mild symptoms.

While these figures have given our government the confidence to reopen schools, health officials remain sceptical. We have a lack of scientific evidence and mixed expert opinions over children’s ability to transmit the virus to adults and a small number of kids are seriously affected. Most countries closed schools early so case studies are non-existent.

These reasons demand that schools take every precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus in their buildings. While scientists battle to understand how the virus works, schools must take the fight directly to the source and eradicate the virus through stringent cleaning processes.

Government and the WHO guidelines set minimum standards. School officials should strive for excellence in their cleaning practices to protect all stakeholders.

Formulate strict and robust cleaning standards

Children’s inquisitive nature coupled with unbridled energy leads to their touching of many surfaces and objects. We can plan to regularly clean, disinfect and decontaminate common touchpoints, but we also know that it’s near impossible to manage thorough manual cleaning processes.

The WHO guidance lists plenty of common touchpoints like lunch tables, sports equipment, doors, railings, toys and more. Schools are big buildings, and once in full flow, the prospect of individually cleaning then disinfecting every hotspot without missing anything is daunting. Especially when cleaners, or even untrained teachers, might be expected to run this process multiple times per day.

Another aspect of manual cleaning that creates an issue is expecting cleaners to decontaminate unreachable areas. We know COVID-19 transmits when people cough or exhale and infected droplets land on surfaces. If an infected child or teacher coughs into a spot that cleaners can’t reach or see but children can, then the potential for cross-contamination heightens.

As schools reopen, teachers, administrators and staff must overcome these problems by formulating strict and robust cleaning plans that combine staged manual cleaning through the best technologies on the market, like scrubber driers, vacuums, chemicals and dry steam machines. Plenty of affordable options are available on the market, which mitigates any worries over tight budgets.

Win the war with scientifically proven cleaning technologies

One of the best technologies employed by the healthcare sector is Dry Steam Vapour. It fights against bacteria and viruses on three fronts with thermal and chemical disinfection and decontamination. Through the mechanical action of surface penetration and extraction, it eliminates all contaminants.

The SARS CoV-2 virus is enveloped by a fatty layer that’s susceptible to detergent and steam vapour. It penetrates common surfaces that are porous – like unvarnished wood – and/or have non-smooth, textured and rough surfaces that harbour and hide biofilm and soil.

Biofilms are communities of bacteria that live together and thrive under the protection of a sticky glue-like layer. As the global leading cause of infections in hospitals, killing hundreds of thousands annually, you can imagine the danger these virus-ridden Petri dishes pose in schools.

While manual cleaning and disinfection struggle to remove buried dangerous organisms, Dry Steam Vapour utilises a mix of super-heated dry steam and disinfectant that penetrates these surfaces to extract and destroy 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.

Parents, Unions and Local Authorities voiced their concerns over ageing classrooms when the government first announced the intent to reopen. How can schools guarantee the safety of children and staff when so many materials, like old porous wooden desks and chairs, are vulnerable to dangerous organisms?

Dry Steam Vapour cleaning, and other technologies like scrubber driers, vacuums and chemicals, solve these problems to provide the safest possible environment and peace of mind to all stakeholders.

Confidence plays a big role in success

Parents must feel comfortable their children are safe. Kids returning home covered with infected cross-contamination because the school failed to implement the right steps could harm at-risk families. Staff want to know their health remains intact when arriving home to their own families.

Cleaners were thrust into the frontline alongside first responders and NHS, and they deserve the same duty of care that parents, pupils and other staff expect.

The simplest, most efficient and cost-effective way to breed confidence in cleaning processes, and the overall environmental safety, is through comprehensive efforts that leave no stone unturned. One way to achieve this is through disinfectant fogging.

How dry steam disinfectant fogging inspires confidence

Let’s look at classrooms as an example of a critical area that should be deep cleaned once the building empties – every day. 

Before cleaners enter the area, anxious about sanitising possibly contaminated surfaces, they can render the classroom safe through fogging. They can attach a fogging applicator to the Dry Steam Vapour machine and spray a steam mist formed with water and non-toxic, approved EN 14476 viricidal disinfectant. The water acts as a carrier for the disinfectant. Super-heated steam eradicates 99.99% of known bacteria and viruses, leaving surfaces decontaminated, safe, and touch dry within 10 minutes.

This process provides an environmentally safe workplace, which cleaners can confidently access to destroy remaining organisms hidden under biofilm, using Dry Steam Vapour and microfibre cloths. Once the team completes the work, they can fog the classroom once more. Infected, but asymptomatic, cleaners might infect the classroom, despite wearing full PPE. This final blast leaves the area free from infection, eradicating any risk.

While industries, like public transport, began depending on fogging to create the safest possible environments amid COVID-19, the practice remains uncommon. Schools might struggle to invest in two separate machines, which is normally required to perform both Dry Steam Vapour cleaning and fogging.

You can purchase a novel fogging device that easily attaches to a single-phase mobile dry steam machines, creating a dual-purpose appliance. Schools and cleaning companies can save serious time and money by simply attaching this device, rather than investing in separate appliances.

Treat reopening schools like healthcare settings

Hospitals are the most cleaned environments in the world because sick, vulnerable and high-risk patients walk the corridors. Now, the world resembles a giant hospital, where everybody either is or can be sick and contagious.

When SARS CoV-2 latches onto biofilm in an unsterilized location, like schools, it creates a breeding ground for killer organisms. Schools, businesses and anywhere else must take their responsibilities seriously and build cleaning systems that achieve - as close as possible - healthcare standards.

Children under certain ages might contract the disease less often than adults, but the risks of cross-contamination from inside and outside soar without the implementation of stringent cleaning procedures. Cleaners can access an array of cleaning technologies, including steam machines, microfibre cloths and chemicals, that help inspire confidence a culture of safety in schools.

As we adjust to the new normal, cleaning practices must be put under the microscope and elevated to match those employed in healthcare settings.

To learn more about how you can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and see our full range of solutions, contact us on 01242 513123 or info@ospreydc.com.

Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazine featured this article in their July 2020, Schools & Facilities issue, you can read it here. [Pages 48- 49]


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