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Who's Keeping Our Buildings Healthy in the Time of Corona Virus?

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Sometimes you pass them at the end of the day as you collect your children and their backpacks, the janitors walking down the school hallways, cleaning cart and mop in tow. The folks who empty the wastepaper baskets, fill the toilet paper rolls and clean up the sticky messes left in the wake of a gaggle of Grade One students. They're like the magic fairies who come during the evening hours and leave everything sparkly and clean, readying the school for another daily onslaught of hundreds of children.

But the truth is these broom-toting janitors are a first line of defense for the health of your children and in turn, the general public, making their professionalism even more critical now in the age of Corona Virus. When the virus first raged onto the world stage a few months ago, scientists scrambled to unlock its mysteries in an effort to slow its rampage. What they've discovered is COVID-19 is transmitted via respiratory droplets deposited into the air when someone coughs or sneezes and through fecal matter. But the fun doesn’t stop there, as the virus can then live on surfaces for multiple days. Children are notorious for less-than optimal sanitary procedures and then touching everything, making schools one giant petri dish with little walking germ transmitters coming into households, stores, dance schools and churches all around the country.

This is where the work of the janitorial professionals becomes critical. John Fitzgerald, president of Veritas Maintenance, specializes in custodial and total facility services for institutions. The onslaught of the virus is something he and others in his industry are taking extremely seriously as workplace health and safety are literally depending on them.

“We’ve definitely changed how we clean since the virus started,” says Fitzgerald. “Usually, we’re dealing with outbreaks of lice or maybe the flu that will need a deep clean and possibly see the school shut down for a day or two. We’d be dealing with short live times, meaning that the contagions wouldn’t live long on surfaces.”

“But with COVID-19, the research is showing that the virus can live for extended periods on surfaces. Door knobs, doors, toilet handles, faucets, light switches – all of these surfaces are now potential hotbeds of contagions.”

Fitzgerald and his team of fifty are sporting full bodysuits to clean and using recommended specialty cleaning products that they spray and then leave, rather than immediately wiping away.

“The strategy is to saturate the surfaces and then leave the product to kill whatever contagions are there,” he explains. “It feels like we’re working in circles, constantly wetting things down and leaving the product for its specified period of time. Prior to the virus, we’d spend maybe twenty percent of our time with deep cleaning and the rest on typical daily cleaning. But now it’s all about effectiveness as we’re less worried about the aesthetics and more about touch points.”

However, as Fitzgerald notes, what is working today may need to be updated for tomorrow based on the latest research. To that end, he and his crew are constantly monitoring the CDC website for the latest developments in the battle to contain a virus run rampant, just as families can do so for their own households. Not sure what products to use? Check out this list of EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims for home-use. For non-porous surfaces, the CDC recommends cleaning then disinfecting using a solution of 1/3 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

“COVID-19 is new to us all, and we are in a constant state of monitoring, adjusting and implementing,” he explains. “The virus has us all in unfamiliar territory. The good news is the cleaning industry is well equipped, and excellent people are working hard to do their best out there”

Although the janitorial community may not don fatigues and their weapons of choice are mops and rags, they are fighting a war for the health and safety of their fellow countrymen against the invisible enemy, COVID-19. Here's hoping they are victorious in their battle.

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