Companies that cleaned everything from crime scenes to chemical spills to radioactive waste are being called in to disinfect hotspot areas from coronavirus.
These workers go to businesses and homes where confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been documented, in some cases leading to death, putting themselves at risk of being infected with the virus.
We followed Cory Chalmers, the CEO of Steri-Clean—a company that specializes in biohazard and crime-scene cleanup—to see what it takes to be on the front lines disinfecting sites potentially contaminated with the novel coronavirus.
For a day, he showed us what it looks like to be a professional cleaner during an outbreak.
Cory Chalmers: It's scary for us. You know, we don't know if there's truly COVID-19 in there yet, so we have to act like there is on almost every case we go into right now.
Narrator: In the wake of the pandemic, companies that cleaned everything from crime scenes to chemical spills to radioactive waste are being called in to disinfect hot-spot areas from the coronavirus. These workers go to businesses and homes where confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been documented, in some cases leading to death, putting themselves at risk of being infected with the virus.
2020欧洲杯小组赛They are an often-unseen group of essential workers on the front lines of the outbreak. To see what it takes to be on the front lines, we followed Cory Chalmers, the CEO of Steri-Clean, a company that specializes in biohazard and crime-scene cleanup. For a day, he showed us what it looks like to be a professional cleaner during the outbreak.
Chalmers: We were called out to a home where a lady had passed away. The last time the son talked to her she had had a terrible cough and the symptoms of COVID-19, and then he didn't talk to her for a period of a week, so he went over there to check on her and found her deceased, unfortunately. She unfortunately laid on the ground for at least a few days, which results in early-stage decomposition, which can result in bacteria even if there's not a virus present, so we were then contacted to come in and help him clean up the biohazards and just make the home safe.
Narrator: Sanitizing services like Steri-Clean are scrubbing down places suspected of being contaminated by the novel coronavirus. That includes cruise ships, offices, warehouses, factories, coffee shops, and the homes of the deceased, like this one woman, who may have had COVID-19.
Chalmers: I've spent a lot of my days cleaning houses and businesses, police cars. There's just not a lot of resources here. My day in the life has definitely changed in the last month or so.
Narrator:2020欧洲杯小组赛 Before entering a potentially contaminated space, Chalmers and his team suit up, wearing personal protective equipment similar to healthcare workers on the front lines. While the CDC hasn't confirmed any cases of someone getting infected from the novel coronavirus living on a surface, it still recommends disinfecting surfaces regularly. And researchers have found that the virus can live on certain surfaces for hours and even days.
Chalmers:2020欧洲杯小组赛 We wear full coveralls, which are disposable. They're also splash resistant. We wear N95 masks, respirators, so we're fully encapsulated. We can't breathe in any of the particulates that are out there floating around. We wear shoe covers. We wear double gloves. We're taped at the seam. So we're really not allowing anything to get inside of that suit or under our mask, because we've got to take this off and go home at the end of the day. So we don't want to bring anything home with us.
Narrator: With his respirator mask on, Chalmers enters the contaminated space and first begins to remove any soiled clothes or materials from all surfaces.
Chalmers: There was a lot of blood, which is uncommon, but she did have a pretty bad cough, so we ended up cutting out a lot of the carpeting where there was blood and bodily fluids, the chair that she was sitting in, part of the bed, making it safe for the family to go in there.
Narrator:2020欧洲杯小组赛 After disposing of the biohazard waste, Chalmers' team scrubs contaminated surfaces with an alcohol- or bleach-based product. This step removes biofilms.
Chalmers:2020欧洲杯小组赛 It's basically the invisible matter that, just from our hands touching repeatedly, build up on surfaces, and it's full of germs and bacteria that cluster together. And so those clusters are competing with our disinfectant spray that we put on a surface.
Narrator: The work that Steri-Clean does has to be thorough. So, to confirm surfaces are properly cleaned, Chalmers uses ATP monitors to test for cellular activity, since as of now there's no test that detects the COVID-19 virus on surfaces.
Chalmers: So, when we measure ATP on surfaces, it's stored energy. Every cell has it. So if we know that we have reduced the cellular activity on that surface, we've done a good cleaning job.
Narrator: Once a surface has passed the ATP monitor's test, Chalmers can move on to the next step, disinfection, which will penetrate any present viruses, not only COVID-19. Chalmers So, we're worried about not only cleaning up something visible for the family to not have to see, but we want to make it safe for them to go in there if there are viruses, pathogens, and things that are invisible on the surfaces as well.
Narrator: Chalmers' team follows a strict CDC-approved process for applying hospital-grade, EPA-registered disinfectants that claim to kill emerging pathogens. Chalmers sprays disinfectant on all surfaces and touch points, letting it sit for the proper dwell time before wiping the surface. That includes door handles, light switches, keyboards, the backs and arms of chairs, plus all horizontal surfaces, like tables, countertops, and desks. If it dries before the mandatory dwell time, then the disinfectant is ineffective.
2020欧洲杯小组赛And they do this with electrostatic guns, mechanical spraying systems, and handheld foggers. Whole-room misting systems are used in larger spaces to fill rooms with invisible disinfection mist. In smaller cases like this one, Chalmers' team uses electrostatic guns to put an electric charge on the mist so it wraps on the backside of surfaces and coats them evenly throughout. Since their first COVID-19-related call in early March, the company has worked on dozens of cases.
Chalmers: Over that time, we've got to the point where 99% of our calls were all COVID-19-related. Just every call coming in. I don't think COVID-19 is going away. So I really think it's going to change our industry, because I think this could be something we see ongoing for years.
Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story.