By Diane M. Calabrese / Published June 2020
A critical situation calls for a quick and calm response, and everyone has a role to play. When COVID-19 became recognized as a serious threat, members of the Cleaning Equipment Trade Association (CETA) stepped forward. They formed an intensely active working group to identify opportunities to assist in the response, formulate white papers for industry members, and disseminate up-to-date information about the virus.
The CETA COVID-19 Technical Committee is chaired by Jimmy Welch of American Pressure Inc. in Robbinsdale, MN. The committee posts regular updates at ceta.org/covid-19. (The complete list of committee members is also available via the link.)
Readers have certainly been following the updates through the committee’s web presence. Here, we back up just a bit to review the goals of the committee. Doing so provides a good reminder about the commitment of CETA to a strong and vigorous industry and nation.
So, how did the committee begin? “In January, February, and into early March, Ben Hagemann, president of CETA, and myself had several discussions about the novel coronavirus outbreak that was spreading so quickly,” explains Welch.
Moreover, both Welch and Hagemann were talking with colleagues. “We also had communication with several CETA members about the effects on our industries, as well as the opportunities for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting,” says Welch.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic. That declaration precipitated a flurry of activity. “We really started researching how South Korea was responding,” says Welch. “We realized their massive cleaning and disinfecting efforts and the positive effects the efforts were having in reducing the spread in their country.”
“On Sunday, March 22, Ben directed the CETA office and myself to focus on CETA’s response to COVID-19…” explains Welch. A meeting of the current technical committee was called.
In turn, the COVID-19 CETA Technical Committee, an ad hoc committee, was formed. “We recruited new members for their expertise, vision, and insight on the task of how CETA can both assist in the war on the coronavirus and thrive and survive during this time,” says Welch.
This is not the first ad hoc committee formed by CETA. Yet, it is undeniably unique. “We established the Prop 65 sub-committee,” explains Welch. The committee formed to evaluate and respond to the issues associated with California’s Proposition 65 was and is of great importance to members. Still, its inception did not have similar urgency.
The “unexpected occurrence” and “the magnitude” of the COVID-19 pandemic cause it to stand alone among the complex issues CETA has addressed, explains Welch. In late April, as we write, we can now view the business of keeping pace with regulations—even the extremely comprehensive ones like those under the Prop 65 umbrella—as a welcome sign of healthy commerce.
About which sorts of things does CETA’s COVID-19 committee deliberate and research? Welch outlines four broad areas of concern.
One is to offer a ready source of educational materials to CETA members. That is ongoing “as we identify what is known about coronaviruses and continue to monitor the current strain, COVID-19, and what deactivates it,” explains Welch.
A second is to provide essential business information. Governors have full authority over how businesses function—or do not—in their states. For example, by sharing information, it is possible for business owners in a state under severe restrictions to find case studies from a less-restrictive state about what works and how they could do business, if permitted by their governors.
A third area of concern is financial, or what measures business owners can take to be sure they have exploited every possible way to maintain their solvency. For instance, there’s advice on such things as how to work with government entities to apply for assistance under federal aid programs and how to keep bankers informed and credit lines open.
The fourth area of concern is how to consolidate and distribute resources about how our industry’s focus makes it a strong partner in the fight. As such, the committee is working on white papers for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.
Access to information in the broad areas of concern is restricted to CETA members. But, all visitors to the committee’s web presence page can find quick links to valuable information, such as the EPA List of Disinfectants and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—Cyber-Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) designation of essential workers.
Committee member Yujin Yoo Anderson, general manager at Steamericas Inc. in East Inglewood, CA, is one of those who has contributed a white paper. Anderson’s company is known for machines that tap the cleaning capability of dry vapor steam. The company is endeavoring to exploit all it knows about other pathogens as a foundation for combatting COVID-19.
“We do not have testing data on SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] with dry vapor steam,” says Anderson. “We are making recommendations based on the structure of this particular virus and scientific data we already have on other pathogens against dry vapor steam. Most viruses are known to be inactivated at 80 degrees Celsius [176° F]. This particular virus’s envelopes are made of lipid layers, the easiest type to deactivate compared to capsid forms like norovirus.”
The tantalizing possibility some heat can break down the lipid (fatty, colloquially) layer and deactivate the virus is exciting. It would be a tool to use to halt the spread of what is a highly infectious agent—and as with many excellent tools, possibly useful in conjunction with other good tools.
“If one can ensure the contact surface temperature above the lethal level, dry vapor steam can be used to disinfect against COVID-19,” says Anderson. “However, the contact surface temperature can vary greatly based on the distance between the surface and the steam nozzle, ambient temperature, and so on. For this reason, we recommend using dry vapor steam in conjunction with an EPA-listed disinfectant as an additional step.”
As the committee strives to do all it can to help restore the health and vigor of the nation (and the world), reclaiming equilibrium COVID-19 disrupted, it also looks ahead. Everything learned in this effort will be useful in other ways. And committee member Richard “Bo” Bodo, the director of training for Kärcher North America Inc. in Denver, CO, explains that more fully.
“One of the most important things is to develop a plan for our ‘new normal’ after COVID-19,” says Bodo. “Surfaces are going to need to be regularly cleaned and disinfected to assure the public they are safe when visiting retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and anywhere else they travel.”
But that’s just the starter list. “While much attention will surely be focused on interior surfaces and high touch-points, there is going to be a need for cleaning and disinfection on exterior surfaces as well,” explains Bodo. “Tables, benches, chairs, and playground equipment are all going to require regular cleaning and disinfection.”
New types of cleaning and more frequent cleaning will likely be part of the future. “Professionals in our industry should begin educating ourselves on how to discuss this with customers, understanding proper cleaning terminology and the solutions we can provide to the customer,” says Bodo.
The COVID-19 committee deals with the acute demands of the present. But, it builds for the future.