Back To Work? How To Navigate, Disinfect Your Work Day

Posted by Richard on June 4, 2020

Each worker will want to routinely disinfect work spaces for at least two months (and maybe more if there is another outbreak of coronavirus in the fall).
This article contains information derived from a National Institutes of Health 2020 study on virus aerosol and surface persistence. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This is the first study on this topic and most statistics cited on the Internet from popular sources originate from this work.

Surface exposure

*Wear gloves on public transportation or if you are lingering in high-traffic, public areas.
*Keep tissues on your desk, to help yourself and others stop the spread through sneezing and coughing.
*Carry tissues with you to open doors, push buttons, and turn handles in public areas. In a pinch, use your sleeve or even your elbow.
*Disinfecting wipes help disinfect your desk, but be sure they are wet and not dried out.
*Follow the guidance of the CDC on masks. Some areas might not advise workers to wear masks.
*Consider changing into clean clothes when you get home from work, especially if you have been to any public places. Wash clothes in at least 86 degree water with soap. Load washers lightly to increase the disinfecting effect. Bleach and non-chlorine bleach help, if acceptable for the fabrics. High-heat dryers are also good.
*Drying clothes outside might help as some studies say ultraviolet light has disinfecting properties.
*In break rooms, wash ceramic cups in soap and hot water after using. Consider carrying your cup to your desk or work area, rather than leaving it in the break room.

Surface contamination
*The Covid-19 virus is still too new for comprehensive studies on how long it persists on some surfaces. However, similar corona viruses, like SARS and MERS, remain infectious on some surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature. That is much longer than the measles virus, which can stay intact for about two days. Low temperatures and high humidity tend to increase persistence.

Hard surfaces
*In quantities large enough to be transmittable, the Covid-19 virus can exist on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for 72 hours.
*Copper is known to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and this was shown in a 2015 study by the University of South Hampton.
*Current studies show Covid-19 can exist on copper for only 4 hours.
*On cardboard, the virus lingers for about 24 hours, suggesting that delivered packages should be safe.

Fabrics
*Viruses do stay on fabric, but just how long seems to be unknown and was not covered in the NIH study. One study found that wool, cotton, and other natural fabrics contain more bacteria compared to synthetics and silks. But no study has yet proved how long viruses live on fabric. According to the Mayo Clinic, viruses tend to last a shorter time on fabrics.

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