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What Have We Learned from the Pandemic?



Who would have thought that a year and a half after we first learned about this pandemic called COVID- 19, that we would still be dealing with it and that our lives would be changed forever? Yet, that is exactly what has happened. The effects of this global pandemic can be seen from the great loss of lives to the effects on our daily routines. We may ask, what lessons have we learned thus far? How will we protect ourselves as we eventually move past this tragic pandemic? I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the valuable lessons we have learned to help to protect us in the future. The first lesson is the need for regular and proper handwashing. This would seem obvious right? Yet think about how much hand sanitizer sales have increased since the outbreak began. The other lesson is cleaning for health. That involves going beyond just wiping down of surfaces. It involves proper and thorough disinfection and of course, this leads to us understanding how to properly use disinfectants. The last lesson is possibly the hardest one for some to accept. The use of masks to prevent transmission of pathogens, especially in enclosed spaces.

Hand Washing

When it comes to hand washing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following: To prevent the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands BEFOR and AFTER:

  • Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

  • Touching your mask

  • Entering and leaving a public place

  • Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens.

The guidance for the list of key times to wash hands was developed based on data from a number of studies. Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community. I have posted on our website a helpful poster that you can download and print for use as a reminder at home and in your workplace.

Disinfecting Lessons

The other lesson we have learned involves going beyond just surface cleaning. Many people assume that using disinfectant wipes is enough to clean and disinfect a surface. But is that all there is to it? Notice what Clorox states on the label regarding the proper use of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes:

“To disinfect and deodorize hard, nonporous surfaces: Wipe surface; use enough wipes for treated surfaces to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes. Let surface dry. For highly soiled surfaces, clean excess dirt first.”


What is the point? We can’t assume that just wiping a surface with a rag or wiper even if it is treated with a disinfectant is enough to kill pathogens. It is critical that you clean the surface first and then use an appropriate disinfectant to achieve proper disinfection.

What exactly is “proper disinfection”? Disinfecting and sanitizing are very different. According to the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) disinfectants kill 99.999% while sanitizers kill between 50 – 99%. The EPA states disinfecting kills viruses and bacteria on surfaces using chemicals while sanitizer kill bacteria but are not intended to kill viruses. COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome which is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. Therefore, it is vital that you use an EPA approved disinfectant and follow the manufactures directions including contact time. Check out the link to the EPA’s poster “Cleaning and Disinfecting – Best Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Speaking of disinfecting, what about the use of fogging or electro-static sprayers for application of disinfectants? Which is better and why? I found a great article on blog.zoggics.com that explains the difference between foggers, electro-static sprayers and ULV atomizing. The blog stated:

“Three systems that are commonly mixed up are foggers, electrostatic sprayers, and atomizing systems. Let’s take a look at each of them, and help answer the question, what is the difference between fogging or misting, electrostatic spraying and atomizing?”

The blog goes on to state:

“It’s important to note that foggers should not be used to disinfect and have been deemed ineffective by recent CDC and EPA guidance. Bottom line: we don't recommend foggers!”

The blog also explains that electrostatic spray systems deliver electrically charged disinfecting droplets that are actively attracted to surfaces, including the back, sides, and crevices of objects. They can reach areas that traditional spray and wipe systems miss. In addition, the newest emerging technology is that of ULV atomizers. This technology utilized Ultra Low Volume (ULV) cold atomizing, which attains the same end result as electrostatic systems, but with a higher production and high-capacity unity, killing 99.99% of any pathogen, including SARS-CoV2. These units also allow the user to apply their choice of EPA registered disinfectant.

Facemasks

Who isn’t tired of wearing a mask? Remember when if you went into a store or a bank with a mask they thought you were there to rob the place? Well now more then a year and a half later it seems like they have become as essential to our daily lives as our cell phones. You never leave home without your mask right? But why is this so important? Will we ever be able to completely ditch face masks?

We all know that this issue is very politically charged and many people feel it is an infringement of their freedoms. In the article 5 Reasons Why You Should Wear A Mask, According to Experts written by Taylyn Washington-Harmon on health.com she acknowledges this issue and then spells out 5 common sense reasons for wearing of face masks. They are:

  1. They reduce viral transmission if worn correctly

  2. They prevent asymptomatic spread

  3. Your protecting others from illness

  4. They are mandated by law in some states (not exactly a great reason)

  5. They are good general hygiene (best answer)


I love this last reason. Notice her comments, “Medical professionals from surgeons to dentists were wearing masks to protect themselves from droplets, germs, and illness as well to prevent their own germs from spreading, even prior pandemic. In many cultures, wearing a mask when one is ill or has allergies is a sign of respect for others. Wearing a mask to protect yourself is normal, and simply good hygiene when in a high-risk situation.” That makes a lot of sense!


While COVID-19 has changed our lives forever we can take away valuable lessons that can help us reduce the affects of future pandemics or epidemics. After the Spanish flu of 1918, people began to learn the value of hand washing, however over 100 years later we are still encouraging people to wash their hands regularly, even though we know how important it is to our health. When will we learn that this very simple principle for keeping our families safe?

While disinfectants have been around for thousands of years, our understanding of how pathogens are spread and controlled is still relatively new. One thing is for certain we know that disinfectants work when used properly. Proper use of disinfectants involves cleaning the surface first as much as possible and then applying an EPA approved disinfectant with the proper kill claims. We have also learned how to use newer technologies such as electrostatic sprayers and ULV atomizers to effectively distribute disinfectants.

And yes, while face masks remain a very politicized issue, no one can argue that they are just good general hygiene. Who wants their surgeon operating on them without wearing a face mask?

These valuable lessons may seem obvious and simple, yet are we applying them? Most of us have already experience pandemic fatigue. We may be tired of having to be careful, wash our hands, wear a mask, and clean for health. The fact is that this is our new normal and if we learn these lessons now and educate ourselves, we can perhaps reduce the terrible affects of the next global pandemic.



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