Since first emerging in the US last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has come in waves, and right now, the nation is experiencing another fast-moving surge. This is especially true in many southern states, and growing elsewhere, as the virus is increasingly transmissible. In fact, some 98 percent of the country now lives in a portion of the country where there is a “high” or “substantial” risk of community transmission, up from just 19% only one month ago, according to an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the last two weeks alone, the number of average daily cases has increased 64% nationwide, while the number of hospitalizations has grown by 65%, based on the latest case count from The New York Times, which culls data from local, state and federal.
As a result of this latest surge, mask requirements and vaccine mandates are being widely considered across the country. Meanwhile, the CDC continues to update its guidance to reflect the current situation.
Earlier this spring, KBS advised that while COVID-19 was on the decline, it was important to look forward, not back. KBS’ recommendations to customers continue to focus on “cleaning for health.” This means instead of cutting workplace cleaning programs to pre-pandemic levels as infection rates declined – which many in the industry would agree were too low – facility leaders should instead refocus on rebalancing these cleaning programs to provide a hygienic and safe environment that addresses many different potential pathogens and other issues.
Effective professional facility cleaning programs cannot be turned on or off like a faucet if you want to maintain consistency and quality. This is even truer in today’s tight labor environment. The latest COVID surge only reinforces our focus on hygiene and recommendations for maintaining healthy operations.
Key Pillars to Healthy Operations
KBS continues to advocate adhering to the following workplace cleaning for health program pillars, which are critical for raising hygiene standards, lowering costs, and building customer and employee confidence. These pillars include:
- Staying Vigilant – The latest re-emergence of COVID after a sharp decline in cases this spring serves as an important reminder that facility executives need to remain ever vigilant in the face of the pandemic. Even after this latest surge fades, facility leaders should be prepared for the possibility of additional waves, or other potential setbacks, as well evolving rules and regulations involving masks, vaccine mandates, personal protective equipment (PPE), and more.
- Cleaning is Essential – Employee and customer awareness of cleaning safety is becoming more acute with each new COVID variant. Although surface transmission may be low (as noted by the CDC this spring), it is still possible, along with other microbial transmissions. In fact, a range of pathogens are widely known to spread on surfaces, including C diff, norovirus, staph, and other viruses and bacteria. Regular cleaning and disinfection, at least once a day or more depending on the environment, per CDC, is an absolute must not only for healthy operations, but also to meet employee and customer expectations. A recent survey by IRI Research showed 99% of American shoppers feel safer at stores that provide sanitizing stations, and 40% of Americans will go out of their way to shop at a retailer that provides such stations. Competing in this tight labor market make a safe, hygienic workplace even more important as employees make decisions about where they want to work.
- Look Forward, Not Back – Prior to the pandemic, many workplace cleaning programs were scaled back, which put facilities managers at a severe disadvantage when the pandemic first hit. Ramping up to meet facility hygiene needs took longer than it should have. This underscores the importance of integrating hygiene safety as a part of everyday facility management, while rebalancing current programs when the pandemic subsides, not turning the clock back.
- Professionalism Pays – Professional, outsourced facility cleaning programs are proven to deliver strong results and should be under consideration by facilities managers looking to successfully manage through the evolving pandemic. With the experience of managing over 250,000 COVID cleaning cases, KBS has the processes, supply chains and expertise to help businesses flex as this situation changes. With a keen understanding of the latest industry best practices, the know-how to administer chemicals safely and effectively, and a strong commitment to innovation and cleaning technology, including robotics and automation, KBS knows how to raise standards and lower costs. All these attributes will be needed to manage a new era of clean, healthy operations.
- Focusing on Cleaning for Health – Finally, rebalancing and refocusing on cleaning for health is essential to today’s facilities services. This technology enabled approach requires adjusting programs to holistically consider facility type, the concentration and flow of people utilizing a facility, the various surfaces and materials used throughout, and more. As the pandemic subsides, it is important to prioritize workplace cleaning projects that were deferred to preserve assets.
As a once-in-a-generation pandemic continues to evolve, facility leaders must continue to actively monitor evolving local, state, and federal rules and recommendations. They would also be well served to consider the five key pillars to healthier operations listed above. This includes embracing a cleaning for health strategy that changes the game for facility managers by rethinking traditional approaches to facility cleaning. For more resources and information, visit KBS’s Insights portal.