Q: The CDC recently recommended that cleaning once a day is usually enough to maintain a healthy facility. Do we need to sanitise so often in Barbados?
A: Dr Kirk Douglas
Centre for Biosecurity Studies
The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus
These changes have been proposed by The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) after careful consideration of data accrued over almost one year of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The major conclusion from analysis of these data is that surfaces are not a big risk for transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV2) and COVID-19. Because of this the previous emphasis on frequent and rigorous cleaning protocols may not be as necessary.
Why? Surfaces can become potentially contaminated with SARS-COV2 and this virus is coated with a lipid (fat) layer that enables it to stick to surfaces. Now the virus present on surfaces is a threat, but that threat is only realised if someone touches the contaminated surface and rubs their hands in their eyes or other mucosal membranes such as the mouth or nose facilitating transmission. This can increase the chances of transmission of SARS-COV2 infection. One must therefore be aware that though a reduction in the frequency of surface cleaning has been reduced, the protocol for continued and frequent hand washing still applies. This is because your hands still represent a real threat to you for contamination and transmission of SARS-COV2.
Another thing to bear in mind is the frequency of touching a particular surface. Some surfaces are more frequently contacted than others, e.g. the mouthpiece of a telephone at the reception desk or at your cubicle may have more contact than a desk in an unused room. So, the frequency of cleaning of the telephone mouthpiece should be more frequent than the desk in the unused room. So, the once-a-day cleaning recommendation by the CDC makes sense to adopt. The answer then to the question is, it depends. We may not have to sanitise surfaces as frequently as before, but this is dependent on the type of surface to be cleaned and the risk posed by the surface. Nonetheless, the recommended handwashing guidelines and protocols should remain in force.
This article appears in the May 3 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.