As we venture back into the workplace in what we hope will be a gradual return to “normalcy” following this spring’s COVID-19 pandemic, there are many new things to learn about protecting workers, guests, and clients from the spread of viral infection. Based on what we already know, transmission from person-to-person of this virus happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet) via respiratory droplets. Unfortunately, there are not yet any documented studies of transmission from various types of surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus.

Since many recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms can still spread COVID-19, facility managers, property managers, and business owners need to understand best safety practices for disinfecting furniture, fixtures, equipment, and even walls and floors in the workplace and other facilities where people congregate. Current evidence suggests that coronavirus may remain viable for hours or even days on surfaces made from a variety of materials including laminate surfaces, metal cabinets, upholstered chairs, office furniture, digital equipment, etc. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is currently considered to be a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings.

It is unknown how long the air inside a room occupied by someone with confirmed COVID-19 remains potentially infectious, but we do know that improved ventilation can help shorten the time it takes respiratory droplets to be removed from the air. Facility managers will need to consider factors such as the size of the area and the ventilation system design when deciding how long to close off potentially affected areas before sending in a cleaning crew to disinfect. And building owners may need to consider upgrading ventilation systems in some older buildings to increase airflow and remove virus and bacteria from the air continuously.

With proper ventilation and disinfection, including far-UVC light, spray disinfectants, and other innovative treatments that are now being developed, workers should be able to safely return to cleaner, healthier environments.