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Are We Living the New Normal?
Posted 5/26/20 10:26:11 AM by Emily Pazel

Before the start of this year, no one could have imagined battling a global pandemic on the scale that the coronavirus has brought to us over the last few months. For roughly two months, restaurants, schools and both “essential” and “non-essential” businesses were given guidelines to follow strict social distancing recommendations or even temporarily closed. And due to financial obligations, some of those businesses never re-opened. Even though federal restrictions on social distancing rules have been slightly lifted, several states and cities – typically with higher death-toll rates – have stayed closed. As states, counties and cities look to the horizon on re-opening businesses, schools, parks and other ways of life, what will become the new normal? 

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that some social distancing regulations will have to remain in place until a vaccine for the virus is made and distributed. Otherwise, people are putting their health, or their loved one’s health, at risk when venturing into public places and coming into contact with other people. But what kind of social distancing will we continue to see? What will the future of large sporting events or concerts look like? What kind of rules will be implemented in our schools to protect our children? Are plastic, reusable menus a thing of the past? 

We may not know all the exact answers to these questions, but we can at least go through some guidelines required by the CDC that creates a basic plan for helping schools, businesses and other programs to slowly get back to normal life.


Strategies for Disinfecting & Reopening

While this information is subject to change, the CDC recommends that everyone – whether you own a small business, work at a school, or are a stay-at-home parent – should develop a plan for cleaning and disinfecting your area, as well as implement that plan and be sure to maintain or revise your plan as necessary. Especially if you work in a public area with a high volume of traffic, you should try to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by creating and implementing a plan to clean and disinfect those areas routinely, and continue to practice social distancing and continue to wash your hands and wear proper protective face coverings.

A major part of developing, implementing and revising your plan will require you to follow along your state and local guidelines as each location is different and may require more or less specific instructions. It’s important to evaluate your workplace, school, home or business to determine what kinds of surfaces and materials make up that area that will require cleaning. The CDC recommends that you should first clean the surface or object with soap and water, and then use an EPA-approved disinfectant to make sure the area is fully cleaned.

Examples of frequently touched surfaces and objects that will need routine disinfection:

  • Tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Countertops
  • Handles
  • Desks
  • Phones
  • Keyboards
  • Toilets
  • Faucets and sinks
  • Gas pump handles
  • Touch screens
  • ATM machines

 Outdoor areas, according to the CDC, will generally require normal routine cleaning and may not always require disinfection, such as spraying disinfectant on sidewalks and in parks. However, you should still clean and disinfect anything outdoors that might be touched frequently, such as gas pumps and outdoor seating areas at restaurants.

If your work area, school or business has not been occupied for seven days or more, the CDC explains that the area will only require normal routine cleaning to reopen as the virus has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this period of time. Once the area becomes occupied more frequently, it is important to know that the area will require more routine cleaning and disinfecting. 

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COIVD-19, but researchers on a global level are on the hunt to create one. And while vaccine development can sometimes take years to create, researchers aren’t starting from scratch with this one, and instead, are using past research on SARS and MERS vaccines. But until then, adhering to proper social distancing and barrier precautions is key.

Infection controls and barrier precautions have always been a key concept incorporated into the healthcare work setting to avoid or reduce exposure. And now, more than ever, they are implemented in healthcare settings as well as regular, everyday business and school settings due to the recent global pandemic. 


Today’s Infection Control & Barrier Precaution

Going back in time, healthcare professionals have used infection control and barrier precautions to limit exposure and protect themselves from diseases and other potentially harmful infections materials in the workplace. From techniques as simple as hand washing and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough to in-depth training on discarding needles and sharp objects, taking proper precautions in the workplace is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment.

Hand washing, according to NY Requirement’s Infection Control and Barrier Precaution’s course, is “one of the most effective methods for preventing patient-to-patient, patient to staff and staff-to-patient transmission of microorganisms, and is one of the foundations of infection control.” There are many occasions in the workplace that require hand washing, such as before, after and in between patient contacts, after gloves are removed, after contact with blood, body fluids, secretion, mucous membranes, etc., after coming into contact with inanimate objects within the vicinity of the patient, and after using the restroom or eating.

The course also goes into detail about how personal protective equipment (PPE) places a physical barrier between the patient and the healthcare professional. PPE, in recent times, has not only been a valuable item but also precious and few as hospitals and other healthcare facilities began to see shortages with the pandemic. In some locations, masks and other protective face wear are being required when venturing out in public, such as at doctor’s offices or clinics, grocery stores and other businesses. 

So, just in case you haven’t been keeping up with the virus lately, the CDC has provided a few gentle reminders about the coronavirus and reducing the risk of exposure to it:

  • Within hours to days, the coronavirus on surfaces and objects naturally die; Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time the virus survives on surfaces and objects
  • Normal routine cleaning with soap and water removes germs and dirt from surfaces, and it lowers the risk of spreading COVID-19 infection
  • Disinfectants kill germs on surfaces; And by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, you can further lower the risk of spreading infection; EPA-approved disinfectants are an important part of reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • 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 as this can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in; And remember to 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 your hands frequently and using alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available

The coronavirus has now infected millions and killed an estimated 300,000 people around the world, and without a working vaccine, the numbers are expected to continue to climb. Within the current situation, it’s tough to tell what the future holds, but taking precautions is a safe way to ensure you are doing everything that you can to stay safe and healthy.

While many questions still loom in the air on reopening the country and what the average day might look like for people attending schools, eating at restaurants and vacationing on a cruise, we can certainly tell that federal, state and local guidelines will remain in place to help slowly open things back up until a vaccine is created and life returns to normal.