Cleaning Through COVID Maintaining Sanitation—and Sanity—in Multifamily Housing

Even though the world has been contending with COVID-19 and its consequences for nine months and counting, the routines and practices we’ve adopted to prevent its spread and minimize personal risk of infection are still evolving. With new data come new recommendations, inventions, and adaptations. If nothing else, this pandemic keeps us on our toes. Vigilance and flexibility, which might seem like oxymorons, have equal importance in the global effort to restore some form of normalcy in our lives. 

So it is with cleaning, especially in multifamily buildings and communities where comings and goings—however limited to reduce social proximity and interpersonal contact—necessitate passage through and interaction with common areas. According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Communal spaces, community activities, and close living quarters in multifamily housing increase the risk of getting and spreading the [corona]virus”—making the cleaning and sanitation procedures in these settings all the more important for the health and safety of the approximately 74 million Americans who live in such homes, according to the Community Associations Institute (CAI), as well as the staff who service them. Those responsible for keeping these areas clean and free of hazards—including viral pathogens—have to contend with the ever-changing protocols, products, and processes in place to protect the public—and themselves—from the spread of COVID-19.  

But is there a point where cleaning and disinfection can go overboard?

Sanitizer Insanity

In the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, hand sanitizer became such a hot commodity that the federal government took to usurping shipments headed for hospitals and hard-hit areas because supplies were so limited and demand was so high. If you were lucky enough to even locate a bona fide product with the CDC-recommended percentage of alcohol content (the CDC recommends that a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol be used in situations when soap and water are not available), you would be faced with unimaginable markups and strict quantity limits. Even bottles of pure isopropyl alcohol and glycerin gel became scarce as citizens resorted to homemade Purell-type concoctions and alternative topical disinfectants—a method neither recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor endorsed by this publication, it should be noted... but desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Whether the supply chain got its act together or the public heeded the exhortations of the CDC (and pretty much any medical professional) that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by washing your hands with plain soap and water for 20 seconds, hand sanitizing products can again be found on store shelves and online retailers. They’ve also become a fixture in condos, co-ops, and other multifamily housing sites in common locations where residents, visitors, vendors, and staff don’t have access to a sink. 

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