Author: A&O Contracting
On the 24th of April, 2020, our long-term customer, Lakeridge Health, requested us to respond to the COVID19 pandemic outbreak at Orchard villa long term care home. At this point, much about the virus was still an unknown. It got its official name just two months prior, the death toll in Europe had just passed 100,000, and the public was discouraged from wearing respiratory protection as there was a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We donated most of the N95 respirators in our inventory to healthcare facilities. N95 respirators fell below our requirement for infection control, and the hospitals were running low on PPE. To make matters worse, the lockdowns had affected the supply chains around the world, making it difficult to secure the supplies required for such an undertaking.
When we started the project, Orchard Villa had just come to national attention due to the outbreak. Dozens of inhabitants had died, and over a hundred and fifty were infected. The military had taken over the day-to-day operations of the long term care centre, and Television crews were a constant presence outside. Such was the confusion around this disease that our team risked making national news for all the wrong reasons with the slightest mistake.
Environmental Abatement Council of Ontario (EACO) started working on general guidelines for COVID19 disinfection as soon as the disease came into public attention. In two weeks, they managed to come up with a set of standards to guide contractors through the process of disinfection. However, the guidelines were general, as it was impossible to design specific criteria at such an early stage. We had to rely on our experience and the relationships with suppliers and consultants to complete the project successfully. Safetech Environmental came up with a curriculum to train our technicians in viral disinfection, explicitly targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus with the most up to date information available at the time. Our premier supplier, Hazmasters, had the unenviable task of keeping contractors supplied while discouraging the numerous companies that had set up intending to exploit the panic.
Even with all this information, we still ran into issues in the beginning. The public areas like the dining room had to be sanitized first. Disinfectants are only effective once the surface is thoroughly cleaned, and the public areas were extremely unsanitary. It took our technicians longer to clean before attempting to disinfect them. Safetech Environmental performed ATP bioluminescence testing and COVID 19 specific Quantitative Reverse Transcription PCR analysis to test the effectiveness of our procedures. After a few initial hiccups involving the type of disinfectant to use (the recommended list of disinfectants was still being populated, and most of them were for household purposes), our team perfected the process and started passing the tests on the first attempt. It still wasn’t plain sailing though; watching out for the elderly inhabitants accidentally breaching containment zones and risking exposure to the virus became a serious concern. We also had to come up with procedures for our technicians to work in a space where an extremely infectious disease infected half the inhabitants.
There were plenty of positives too. Lakeridge health was extremely helpful in communicating with the management and moving inhabitants around so we could do our work. Our technicians were encouraged by the friendly and accommodating staff, and the grateful residents who appreciated their work. And last but not least, the biggest positive of them all, the skilled technicians. These were the frontline workers who never got mentioned. The team that stuck to a plan and got the job done and came out of it with zero complications while working at one of the riskiest sites for COVID 19 infection in the province.