ALM Coronavirus Statement and Resources for Healthcare Laundries and Their Customers

March 17, 2020

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, first detected in China and now present in the United States. Because this is a new virus, much is unknown. However, to provide protection for workers and hygienically clean textiles for customers, we must implement what we know about the spread of infection while continuing to produce quality textile services. 

What we know today and how to use it to protect us: 

·       The number one measure proved to reduce the spread of infection is proper and frequent hand washing. Intentional mindfulness to wash hands upon removal of gloves, before eating, after going to the bathroom, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and after traversing high touch-high traffic areas.

·       The fewer germs/virus present on surfaces, the less likely we are to contract the illness. Increase the frequency of cleaning contaminated surfaces.

·       A simple but effective opportunity to break the chain of infection is to prevent the pathogen from reaching an individual through the use of appropriate PPE, such as gloves, gowns, goggles, and/or face shields. (Hint: face shields are an excellent countermeasure to stop the involuntary touching of a gloved hand to your face.)

·       Follow Standard Precautions.

In the laundry, adherence to a proven, effective wash process and effective infection prevention measures will provide safe, quality textiles. These practices will also contribute to a safer environment for workers.

·       Contain contaminated textiles at the point of collection.

·       Continuing a reliable wash process that utilizes the combination of mechanical action or agitation, heat, and chemicals, along with a prescribed time to achieve antimicrobial action and cleanliness will render the textiles hygienically clean.

·       Adherence to proper airflow from clean to soiled (negative air pressure in soiled areas).

·       Separation of clean and soiled textile products.

·       Attention to thorough cleaning of carts and linen transport containers and covering textiles during transit.

·       PLEASE NOTE: Contrary to rumors, currently, there are no recommendations from the CDC or any regulatory authority to destroy (use Red Bags) or incinerate COVID-19 contaminated linens.

The chain of infection has been taught repeatedly; the concept is simple. For an infection to occur, all six elements must be present. 

1.       Sufficient quantity of an infectious agent.

2.       A reservoir where the pathogen lives.

3.       The portal of exit, or means for the virus to leave the reservoir.

4.       Mode of transmission, or the way the virus can be passed.

5.       Portal of entry, or the way the virus can enter a new host.

6.       A new host that is susceptible, or vulnerable, to the virus.

If we break any one of these elements in the chain, the new host will not be infected with the virus. Simple in concept, but not an automatic reaction of busy individuals. These measures have worked in times past and will work again, but they are up to us to adopt these practices to keep ourselves, our customers, our communities, and our families safe.

The inception of any new pathogen produces many unanswered questions. How long does the pathogen live on surfaces, what cleaners can kill the pathogen, is there a vaccine, how is it spread, etc. Until these questions are answered, we have the tools to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19. The success of these efforts is up to each of us. Using the tools that have proven effective are our best defense until scientists can provide us with an effective vaccine.

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