On Monday, April 5, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) relaxed its guidance for cleaning when COVID-19 risks aren’t elevated. Since the pandemic began, epidemiologists have gained a better understanding of how the virus is most typically transmitted. As a result, the CDC’s guidance has changed to reflect this new understanding. Surface transmission of the virus is now viewed as a less significant transmission route than person-to-person transmission through close contact.
Since the virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces, it is possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, however, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low especially when no people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections are known to be in a particular space. Citing several studies evaluating surface transmission, the CDC indicated that the risk of infection through contaminated surfaces is generally less than 1 in 10,000.
Therefore, the CDC has changed its recommendations to indicate that cleaning once a day is usually enough to sufficiently remove the virus that may be on surfaces. The CDC is now recommending that routine cleaning performed effectively with soap or detergent, at least once per day, can substantially reduce virus levels on surfaces.
As described in the CDC’s updated its guidance regarding Cleaning Workplaces, the “certain conditions” that may warrant disinfecting the facility or specific parts of it, as opposed to simply cleaning, include:
- When there has been a known or suspected positive case in the workplace within the past 24 hours. (If it has been longer than 24 hours, but less than 3 days, then disinfecting can be performed.)
- High rate of ongoing community transmission around the facility
- Lack of consistent mask-wearing in the facility
- Infrequent hand hygiene by employees
- The space is occupied by high-risk individuals (i.e., people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19)
If disinfecting is required, the guidance states that employers should still disinfect the workplace using products on the EPA N List.
The new CDC guidance significantly reduce the circumstances when employers must disinfect as opposed to just cleaning the workplace. Workplace sanitation is a central component of workplace exposure control plans. The revised guidance should alleviate some of the time and expense associated with maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. In addition, it will reduce the use of more aggressive disinfectant chemistry to regular cleaning with simpler cleaning products.
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