EPA: Distancing, disinfection practices should continue in battle against COVID-19

Vicky O. Misa

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Relieved to get back some semblance of normalcy after several weeks of sheltering at home could easily cause a false sense of security as the country begins to reopen businesses and public spaces again.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging residents to continue efforts to closely follow social distancing and cleaning guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

“EPA encourages Americans to continue cleaning and disinfecting based on the guidelines we recently released in partnership with CDC,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “Proper cleaning followed by disinfection using products on the EPA’s approved list continues to be an effective way to help reduce the spread of the disease.”

Cleaning and disinfection plays an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Margaret Kitt, Deputy Incident Manager for CDC’s Community and COVID-19 Response Health Systems Team, said.

And cleaning is not just a task for those in high-traffic public spaces.

“The guidance is intended for all Americans — whether they are business owners, organizations, school leaders, or simply families trying to stay safe and healthy at home,” she said.

Guidelines can — and likely will — continue to evolve as the pandemic threat shifts, so routinely checking for changed is advised.

The EPA and CDC recently released updated guidance to help facility operators and families properly clean and disinfect spaces.

Step-by-step instructions are provided at cdc.org for cleaning public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes.

The EPA also has compiled a list of more than 400 disinfectant products, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates and wipes that can be used against COVID-19. Searching products against the EPA list can be done at epa.gov.

While surface disinfectant products on the list have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, EPA expects them to kill the virus because they:

Demonstrate efficacy (e.g. effectiveness) against a harder-to-kill virus; or

Demonstrate efficacy against another type of human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.

“When using these products, always follow the directions and safety information on the label including leaving the product on the surface long enough to kill the virus, rinsing off the product to avoid ingesting it, and putting the product out of reach of children right away,” the website states.

In the meantime, the EPA is working with the CDC to expand research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including environmental cleanup and disinfection, wastewater virus detection, and salivary antibody assay development.

For more information, visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov or cdc.gov.

Watch for updates.

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Reminders about coronaviruses and reducing risk of exposure:

• Coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days. Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight reduces the time the virus can survive on surfaces and objects.

• Normal routine cleaning with soap and water removes germs and dirt from surfaces. It lowers the risk of spread.

• Disinfectants kill germs on surfaces. If disinfectants are in short supply, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70 percent alcohol solutions). Bleach solutions are effective for disinfection up to 24 hours.

• Store and use disinfectants in a responsible and appropriate manner according to the label. Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together — this can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children.

• Do not overuse or stockpile disinfectants or other supplies. This can result in shortages of appropriate products for others to use in critical situations.

• Always wear gloves appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed based on setting and product.

• Practice social distancing, wear facial coverings and follow proper prevention hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and using alcohol-based (at least 60 percent alcohol) hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Information gathered from cdc.gov.