COVID-19 Webinar: Q&A
by Joe Johnson, on March 31,2020
Last week Meritech CTO and hygiene expert, Paul Barnhill, lead a discussion around COVID-19 and how we can ensure health and safety during this tumultuous time. We hope you were able to join the webinar last week, and we want to thank everyone who participated in the discussion. If you were not able to join the session live, you may download the recording here.
During our webinar, we had two Q&A sections and we wanted to relay those questions and answers into more digestible content. If you have further questions please explore our COVID-19 Information Center or, if we may assist further, submit the form at the bottom that page.
Coronavirus Webinar Q&A
How much water is used during one 12-second cycle?
6/10ths of a gallon is used in each wash cycle, 75% less water than a manual handwash. An important note to make is that when washing your hands manually about 60% of the water used never even touches the hands. With CleanTech® 100% of the water used touches your hand and assists in pathogen removal.
How can your equipment wash hands in 12 seconds as effectively as a manual wash that takes 20-30 seconds?
When comparing manual to automated handwashing the biggest difference is the human behavior, every time someone washes their hands they do it differently. Most people really don’t rub their hands together and really work up a lather, getting all the parts of the hands efficiently. Some people use too much soap, others not enough. Many handwashing sinks on the market have water flow too low to effectively flush the pathogens off the skin.
Automation removes the human behavior issues and allows both science and engineering to take over. The same quantity of water, hand solution, & time all the same. The system has 40 nozzles (20 per hand) that are placed in such a way that 100% of the hand is covered. There are 8 nozzles at the wrist that direct all the water downward and block splashout. The next group of nozzles are designed in a helical pattern with both pitch and roll to force everything downward. The last 4 nozzles are directed at the fingertips. The cylinder turns around your hand 23 times in 12 seconds allowing the spraying nozzles to get in to all the cracks and crevasses of the skin with both the soapy water (6 seconds) and then a potable water rinse (6 seconds) pulling all the pathogens off the hand like a tornado. The nozzle sprays the wash the hand like a nozzle cleans your car at the carwash. This spray pattern in combination with hand solution chemistry that is specially designed to work with the correct volume of water. Each hand wash event is identical thus removing the human variable. 100% of the water used in Meritech automated handwashing system is used to wash the hands, thus zero waste.
Even though the time is shorter it was done by allowing engineering, science, & chemistry to work in conjunction to create the best and fastest hand wash. Check out these clinical studies looking at the efficacy of CleanTech®.
Can CleanTech® cycle time be increased for my facility?
While CleanTech® cycle time can be adjusted, we have found that with our 12-second cycle stations remove more than 99.9% of harmful pathogens, therefore we do not see benefit from a longer cycle.
Do you need to increase hand wash time to account for COVID-19?
We have not conducted clinical studies specifically on COVID-19, but when looking at data from other pathogens in the same family and that behave similarly, it does not indicate that longer washing is needed to successfully remove the pathogen. Also, CleanTech® efficacy studies have been performed on much more complex pathogens with more than 99.9% removal.
Are facemasks recommended for all employees?
Facemasks are not recommended for all employees. The CDC recommends masks be reserved for those who are sick or those caring for someone who is sick. During times of pandemic, PPE shortages are incredibly common and masks are usually one of the first things to run out. It is important to follow the CDC’s recommendation to ensure that our health care professionals on the front lines have the equipment needed to stay safe.
How long can COVID-19 survive of surfaces?
It is very important to remember that the information around COVID-19 is developing very quickly and much of the information is preliminary. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study where they found COVID-19 was still detectable on copper for up to 4 hours, cardboard for up to 24 hours, and plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. It is important to note that the amount of the virus reduced rapidly over time, indicating that the likelihood of infection from contact with pathogens surviving on those surfaces would also decrease rapidly.
How should employees handling currency stay safe?
Evidence does suggest that pathogens could be transferred through cash exchanges. This makes it especially important to remind all your employees who will be handling money to follow CDC guidelines; washing their hands often and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.
How does water temperature affect handwash efficacy?
Temperature does not affect the efficacy of handwashing events. The water temperature human hands can handle maxes out at around 105º F which the vast majority of pathogens can survive. Where water temperature comes into play is with compliance. People are more likely to wash their hands well and for the recommended amount of time if the water is comfortable.
Are air hand dryers the recommended method for drying after a hand hygiene event?
No, Meritech recommends single-use paper towels. The reason air dryers are not recommended, particularly when it comes to COVID-19 which is spread through micro-droplets, is if someone is coughing or sneezing in the area, a high-velocity dryer will pick up that droplet and deposit it onto hands that were just washed.
Is the food supply safe? Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?
Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission. The FDA stated in their COVID-19 briefing that they do not expect any recalls associated with the virus. Learn more about the FDA’s COVID-19 briefing here.
How effective is CleanTech® against COVID-19?
While Meritech has not currently studied the effectiveness of our technology against the Coronavirus, we are currently exploring the feasibility of performing an In-Vivo study and the safety considerations of such a test. Over the past 30 years, we have conducted more than 50 clinical laboratory studies testing the efficacy of CleanTech® systems across a myriad of dangerous pathogens that are more harmful and difficult to remove than Coronavirus, including E. coli, Salmonella, Serratia marcescens, Listeria, and Norovirus. Given that we have consistently proven greater than 99.9% pathogen reduction among these more harmful and complex pathogens, we are confident CleanTech® is an effective solution in ensuring proper hand hygiene in response to the Coronavirus threat.
How can I maintain social distancing in my food processing/production facility & food retail establishment where employees typically work within close distances?
CDC is recommending that people employ social distancing, or maintain approximately 6 feet from others, when possible. Evaluate your current processes to identify what operational changes must be implemented to increase employee separation. However, there are some facilities where it will not be possible to implement social distancing to the full 6 feet recommendation. When it’s impractical for employees in these settings to maintain social distancing, effective hygiene practices and enhanced PPE measures should be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
What should I do if someone in my facility is confirmed to have COVID-19?
All components of the food industry are considered critical infrastructure and it is therefore vital that they continue to operate. Food production and processing facilities need to follow cleaning protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a given area. It is important to remember: these decisions will be based on the public health risk of person-to-person transmission – not based on food safety. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality about individual employees’ identities. Sick employees should follow the CDC’s What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Why would you want to remove pathogens when you could kill them?
The skin is your largest organ, and the things used to kill harmful pathogens will also damage if you do not take proper care of your skin. The action of removing pathogens with soap and water is much more forgiving to your hands when compared to killing pathogens with alcohol-based sanitizers. Read more on the topic of skin health in this post.
Do you need to wash hands if you are using gloves?
Yes! Wearing gloves does not remove the need for handwashing. A hand hygiene event should happen prior to donning gloves. Gloves can have unseen defects or can be torn during use, providing a point of contact for the skin. In addition, bacteria can multiply rapidly in moist environments underneath gloves. We should also note that just like your skin, gloved hands can pick up germs so it is important to perform an additional hand hygiene event after donning gloves. To serve this need we offer a continuous walkthrough station that automatically sanitizes gloved hands and any type of footwear.
If you would like to learn more about how Meritech can help during this time please contact us.