How is the Evolving SARS-COV-2 Virus Impacting Cleaning Protocols?
With the highly contagious SARS-COV-2 Delta variant now the dominant strain in the US and around the world, new COVID-19 cases are on the rise, yet again, and taking a toll on the healthcare industry. Hospitals and healthcare facilities are facing not only an influx of new COVID-19 patients, but many regions are also finding an overall increase in serious cases.
According to the CDC, the Delta variant spreads faster than early forms of SARS-CoV-2 and may cause more than two times as many infections. Research suggests the Delta variant replicates much faster and generates significantly more virus in the body compared to the original strain. The rate of severe illness, especially in regions where vaccination rates are low, is again straining healthcare workers on the front lines of the ongoing crisis, according to a Reuters report.
At PDI, we continue to monitor these important events and trends surrounding COVID-19 as we support those working day to day to keep patients safe and healthy. Many in the healthcare field are experiencing more stress and strain as hospitalizations rise, and may have questions and concerns about the products they are using and the ability to keep their facilities clean and safe for patients.
To get a better understanding of how healthcare workers are reacting to the Delta variant’s new surge of COVID-19 cases, PDI conducted a survey* of healthcare professionals to assess their level of concern – and how disinfection and cleaning practices may have changed. This is a follow-up to a study in January 2021 that examined healthcare workers’ thoughts as the new variants were first emerging. The information gathered helps us understand where our customers require the most help and how we can better meet their needs now, and in the months to come.
- Product Efficacy: In the most recent survey, we found that respondents are now less worried about a product’s efficacy against the new strains than in previous months. In January, two-thirds (67%) indicated they were somewhat or extremely concerned about the effectiveness of current products against SARS-CoV-2 variants – however, in July 2021, this dropped to only 44% indicating concern. This trend supports the recent guidance from the EPA, “expecting all products on List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) to kill all strains and variants of SARS-CoV-2. Genetic changes to the virus do not impact the efficacy of disinfectants.” The CDC and other experts have not changed their recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting due to the Delta variant as there is no evidence the virus will behave differently to disinfection.
- More Cleaning, More Often: As another positive shift, respondents indicated that cleaning frequency in their facilities has remained at elevated levels – and more surfaces are now being regularly disinfected compared to pre-pandemic times. In fact, 80% indicate that despite the rollout of vaccines in recent times, they are not decreasing cleaning frequency. And 82% of respondents said the pandemic has increased the number of areas and surfaces they clean regularly.
- Preferred Product Formats: The July 2021 survey also found that overall, despite some availability challenges, wipe usage has increased and is expected to remain high moving forward. Specifically, facilities expect to wipe usage to remain elevated 45% over pre-pandemic levels as the “new normal”. Some reasons for the uptick in wipes usage include ease of use, portability, storage, and availability.
- Supply Concerns: After the supply chain issues and inventory shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE) and other supplies during the early days of the pandemic, it’s not surprising for front-line healthcare workers to be concerned about product availability. In fact, 70% of respondents said preventing shortages is the most essential thing manufacturers can do to support them at this time. At PDI, our continued goal is to fill every order on time and help protect those on the front lines when they need it while having plenty of inventory on hand to ensure there are never any gaps in the supply chain.
As the healthcare industry continues to fight against the deadly virus, PDI is focused on supporting our customers and preserving the well-being of the facilities, clinicians, and patients touched by our products. You can find more information at our online COVID-19 resource center, as well as educational resources, including free online Continuing Education (CE) courses.
*The survey was conducted between July 29 – August 1, 2021, to qualified respondents who are US-based hospital EVS managers, infection preventionists, or nursing managers/directors/CNOs in a facility with 100 beds or more, with a sample size of 50. Data on file.