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Home E-Weekly October 1, 2020

Updating Surface Disinfection Protocols for COVID-19

Published: October 1, 2020

The 'what' isn't changing. It's the 'when' and 'who.'

WIPEOUT WIPEOUT In a world where a dangerous aerosolized virus has brought society to its knees, robust surface disinfection protocols are a must.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts on elective surgeries. The most obvious was the devastating shutdown that took place in the spring. The other is that changes to existing practices need to be, and have been, implemented quickly. That's a sea change from the usual management process at surgical facilities, which often involves months or years of research, education and cultural modification.

It's not perfect, of course, but that's just how things are in 2020. Patient and staff safety have gone from being very important to being hyper-important. It's in this new world that surface disinfection has taken on new urgency. As Donna Nucci, RN, MS, CIC, infection preventionist at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital and owner of her own consulting business, told Outpatient Surgery, the new normal of surface disinfection will center on how well and how often you clean high-touch areas in your ORs and common areas.

"The science is most likely not going to change, but implementation will," says Ms. Nucci. "This is a wakeup call for outpatient facilities to make sure their cleaning protocols align with CDC guidance, including the use of EPA-approved cleaning products and a clear process for performing surface disinfection."

Another angle on the surface disinfection situation: the possibility of new regulations. "Regulatory agencies and patient advocacy groups may require facilities to have a structured environmental cleaning program in place," says Ms. Nucci. "I think we're going to see many more checks and balances."

At Yale New Haven, the cleaning procedures, as well as the chemicals staff use to disinfect, haven't changed at all. What has changed is the frequency. For example, staff are disinfecting the bathrooms nine to 10 times per shift.

"There's a heightened awareness of cleanliness and disinfection right now," says Dean A. Caruso, MBA, executive director of support services and sustainability at Yale New Haven. "Everyone understands that just because something looks clean, it could still make them sick."

Patients are also on edge about the virus and many are frightened about going to surgical facilities because of COVID-19. Ms. Nucci says patients are asking questions such as, "How often are you cleaning?" and "What are you cleaning with?" and "Am I safe?" Simply seeing staff frequently wipe surfaces sends a strong message that will make many patients feel more confident and less anxious about your center's safety. If your surface disinfection protocols haven't yet been updated and explicitly codified, now is absolutely the time to do it.

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