JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
As the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and Americans practice social distancing to help reduce spread of the disease, some people already have the illness, with or without symptoms. Some of them unknowingly exposed others at work, in stores, and at home because they had mild to no symptoms of illness.
An important part of continuing to minimize the spread of the disease is cleaning and disinfecting areas that could have been exposed to the virus.
Joint Base San Antonio Civil Engineer personnel are currently busy supporting just that, by providing guidance, analysis and contract support in areas where persons with confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 were known to have been present.
"In the event an individual begins exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, the member should follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which includes testing and an appropriate level of social distancing," said Lt. Col. Andy Cullen, 502nd Civil Engineer Group Deputy Director. "The symptomatic member should also ensure unit leadership is promptly made aware."
Once a person has been notified of a positive result by a primary care provider, the Restriction of Movement (ROM), Quarantine and Isolation Cell, or RQIC for short, is notified, and they will take steps to determine where the individual has been and who they were in contact with, also known as a trace investigation, Cullen said. This provides JBSA Civil Engineers and Medical specialists with the information needed to assess where and how to clean and disinfect.
While the CDC recommends waiting a minimum of 24 hours before cleaning a contaminated area, most testing results currently take up to two days to receive.
"If we have someone who tests positive, there is a strong likelihood that individual left the workplace 24 or even 48 hours prior to notification, therefore cleaning does not need to be delayed longer," Cullen said.
Once the 24-hour waiting period has passed, the common areas outside of areas of concern, as identified by Public Health, can be cleaned by unit personnel following the guidelines provided by the CDC, he said.
"Although the CDC guidelines allow for self-cleaning in areas of increased concern as well, JBSA has procured additional Blanket Purchase Agreement contract vehicles to perform deep cleaning in those areas recommended by the JBSA Public Health Emergency Officer," Cullen said. "These contract vehicles will perform a deep clean of the area following guidelines developed by the CDC for cleaning of quarantined areas."
The 502nd Civil Engineer Group will also continue to employ existing custodial service contracts and resources to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, Cullen noted these contracts do not include cleaning of door knobs, elevator buttons, equipment and other high-touch items, and that units should establish procedures to clean these surfaces often.
Dorm rooms housing individuals who test positive will also be professionally cleaned using the deep clean contract once the service member vacates the room and before it is returned to service.
All spaces identified for deep cleaning or currently being used for quarantine or isolation, are off limits to unauthorized personnel and will be marked accordingly, Cullen said.
In addition to JBSA's effort to ensure exposed areas on local installations are decontaminated, it is important for those with COVID-19 in their homes to maintain a safe distance from persons who are ill, utilize CDC cleaning procedures, and take all precautions needed to stay well.
If COVID-19 is present in your home, the CDC recommends several preventative measures to help reduce spread of the disease to other members of the household.
- If you are caring for someone who is sick, have that person stay in one room, away from other people, including yourself, as much as possible.
- If facilities are available, have them use a separate bathroom. The sick person should also avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding.
- If face masks are available, have them wear a face mask when they are around people, including you. It the sick person can't wear a facemask, anyone who has to be in the room should wear one.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Launder items used by the sick person in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and using the warmest appropriate water setting. Dry items completely. If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. Wash your hands immediately after removing the gloves.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- The ill person should eat or be fed in their room if possible, and non-disposable food service items used should be handled with gloves and washed with hot water or in a dishwasher.
- If possible, dedicate a lined trash can for the ill person. Use gloves when removing garbage bags, handling, and disposing of trash, and always wash your hands after handling or disposing of the trash.
- Every day, clean all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs, and use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.
- Wear disposable gloves and discard them after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, they should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes.
- Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.
For more information on caring for or cleaning areas exposed to someone with COVID-19, visit https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html#health; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html; and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html.