Good afternoon. My name is Mary Striegel, and I’m a Conservation Scientist with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. This is the third Facebook live broadcast that I’ve hosted from my home in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Today we’re going to focus on issues associated with re-entering our cultural sites and the precautions that we need to take to safeguard ourselves and our visitors. We don’t know when we’re returning to work, but we still need to make our plans now while we have the time to plan.
Before I start, I would like to just recap some of the important information that came out in our first two broadcast. The first thing I want to talk about is the persistence of the coronavirus on surfaces and on materials. These are all taken from the journal of hospital infection and it shows the length of time that the COVID-19 virus or the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces or persist on surfaces, it’s a misnomer to say it’s alive. It is a bundle of DNA and proteins within a lipid envelope. So we can see that metals, it can persist for five days, wood is four days, paper can be four to five days, glass is four to five days, plastics can be six to nine days and ceramics can be five days.
Now you’d notice stone down there, I have a note by it. This comes from a non peer reviewed journal, but it said anywhere from two to twelve days. So those are some of the persistence lengths of time that the virus can live on surfaces. After that, they’re going to be falling apart and then you don’t have to worry about them. So if you isolate your collection for nine days, you should be pretty good to go in your collection. If no one has been in to see your collection, if no one’s been in the storage units or this place where you store your objects, you don’t have to worry about the virus in there.
On the second broadcast, we talked about personal protective equipment and we talked about risk assessment. NCPTT has a risk assessment app that’s available on our website. You can download this to Apple or Android phones, it will help you calculate the risk associated with certain actions. It’s calculated by the severity of the action, the probability that will it will happen and the exposure that you might’ve had. And we talked about putting on and taking off your PPE. The personal protective equipment may include a gown, outer protective clothing, it could be an apron, it could be a coat, your mask or respirator, goggles and gloves.
So today, I want to talk about four or five questions that we need to consider when we’re ready to return to our cultural resource site. These are questions that we have time to think about now and prepare for now. So some of the basic questions that we’re going to answer today include, what plans do I need before returning to work? What needs to be in the plan? What does a re-entry team do? How can we prevent re-contamination from the COVID-19 virus? And what are some of the things we need to do on our first day back? So those are the questions that we’re going to discuss today.
Question number one, what plans do I need before returning to work? Well, the first thing to remember is that everything is not going to be immediately normal when you return to work. There may be new entry procedures, you will probably be maintaining social distancing requirements and housekeeping, you will need to, you will need to do housekeeping in your personal areas.
Cultural heritage sites may have developed a disaster response plan in the past for things like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes down here in Louisiana, but I really doubt that these plans will have any items in them that relate to re-entering a museum, a house museum, a courthouse, or other cultural site after a pandemic, and that’s why we’re talking about this now. Again, it is the management’s responsibility to put in place a re-entry plan for your cultural site. This will help ease fears among your staff and your visitors.
What needs to go in a re-entry plan? This is question number two. What needs to go in a re-entry plan? Well, you may want to have a re-entry plan as an addendum to your current disaster plan. Again, your management has the responsibility to put a re-entry plan in place. Some of the most basic questions on a plan might be who’s responsible for re-entry? Who gives you permission to go back into the building? Has a re-entry team been established? And how is the information being shared with the staff? The person in your organization, there’s someone ultimately in your organization that is responsible for telling you to re-enter the building. You need to have in the plan their contact information, both the phone number and email, alternate ways that you may be able to reach them.
We will talk about the responsibilities for our re-entry team in a minute, but have you established a re-entry team? The team is someone who, is a small group of people who can come in and establish their certain actions. We need to remember that precautionary measures should be taken by housekeeping personnel. They need to be able to have disposable protective equipment such as gloves and aprons. They should be assigned different rooms and task. This personal protective equipment should be changed after they work in a room, before they go to another room to prevent cross contamination, and they should continue to wash their hands thoroughly.
Your plan should probably have what roles they are assigned and then there’s also should be how should this information be shared with your staff? Is the plan in writing? If not, there’s time to work on it now, we’re all home. Does your organization have a calling tree, an email system, or notification system to provide the information to your staff and rapid response? Is the information handy to them? Is it easily digestible? Does everyone have a copy?
Well, let’s talk a little bit about what a re-entry team is. The re-entry team should be kept small. They should be screened for health issues before entering. You should have backup staff so that if one of your staff members that’s on the re-entry team gets ill, there’ll be somebody else that can follow along. And they have three main responsibilities, securing the building to ensure that nobody else comes in, undertake housekeeping in main areas and to serve as communications to staff, potential visitors, administration, and news media if necessary.
Securing re-entry make sure is a responsibility that makes sure only the re-entry team can enter before the building is ready. Doors should be locked and secured. Housekeeping will take place to clean and sanitize those commonly used frequently touched areas. We’re not talking about going in and cleaning objects, collections, store rooms, we’re talking about the public areas that are commonly touched. The communicating team, communication team or person is responsible for talking to the public. They’re going to need things like cell phones, computers, messaging systems and intercoms to keep people in the building in the loop.
Now I want to talk about housekeeping, I’m going to focus on housekeeping a little bit here. In the national park service, there is a museum handbook that defines a lot about the housekeeping in chapter 13. In the national park service, a written housekeeping plan is required for every space that houses museum collections, such as storage spaces, furnished rooms, and a historic structure, indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces, curatorial offices and work and reference spaces. Again, information about housekeeping can be found in chapter 13 of the NPS museum handbook.
I want to emphasize again that for collections and object storage, you simply need to follow your housekeeping plans, particularly if the area has not been assessed in nine days. No extra cleaning or disinfection is needed around the objects. The housekeeping that we’re going to talk about that your re-entry team does is housekeeping and cleaning that is focused in those public areas, the work and dining areas, and in your reference areas. In your re-entry plan, you’re going to want to keep housekeeping re-entry plan and it might include, we’ve said that when you re-enter, the objects should be fine and your cleaning plan should include information like locations for the housekeeping, the task to be performed, the appropriate techniques for accomplishing these tasks, what type of materials do you need? What type of equipment do you need? The frequency in which these areas will be cleaned both when you re-enter and then going forward, and the title and the name of the person responsible for performing these tasks.
One piece of advice that I got from our national park service curators and conservators is that checklists are really useful in this manner. So you may want to create a checklist like this, and this comes from that chapter 13 again, which lists the person who’s going to do the task, where the task is, how frequently the task might need to be done, so that they can simply check off when the task is completed.
So we’re going to establish cleaning methods for those commonly used public areas, the places that are touched more often. That might be the doorknobs, the light switches, the door jams, the tables, the computers, the key pad to enter the building. All of those things need to be cleaned. I wanted to find out what some of the best practices were for cleaning general public areas and particularly during this COVID-19 virus. One of the places that I got some of the best information came from a publication that was released in England and it’s for guidance for management of norovirus infections on cruise ships. Now, while the norovirus is different from the coronavirus causing COVID-19 many of the suggestions in this document were both were very valid.
One of the things it says is you start by cleaning with detergent or soap and hot water, and when they say hot water, they ideally want it 70 degrees centigrade. You want to remove any accumulation of deposits or dirt or grime because that reduces the number of microorganisms that are on the surface to begin with. The detergent you choose should be compatible with subsequent disinfection process and some chemicals may interfere with chemical disinfection, so you’ll have to choose your products wisely. Rinsing, not with copious amounts of water, but rinsing is necessary to remove any soil and cleaning agent from these surfaces.
Disposable clothes should be used and disposed of immediately after use. That means you’re going to take lots of disposable cloths or paper cloths and you’re going to, after that you’re going to bag them and seal them before disposing of them. Don’t just throw them out.
Now, I have to talk about a word about disinfection because that’s the next step. Sodium hypochlorite which is the chemical name for bleach, remains the gold standard for disinfection. But sensitive environmental surfaces will be damaged by hypochlorite. The products you choose can and will harm cultural objects, so you don’t want to use disinfectants on cultural objects. An alternative to products with sodium hypochlorite are products that have quaternary ammonium compounds. These compounds act by disrupting the viral envelopes. The problem with quaternary ammonium compounds is they can break down into a salt and in porous materials like stone, they can be harmful. So choose your disinfectant wisely.
Some other advice that comes out of the England published publication is you want all your mop heads to be detachable and washable. They should be laundered again in 70 degree centigrade water, and then they should be inverted to dry thoroughly. Mops should not be left in buckets of water, and water should not be left in the buckets as it can quickly become contaminated and if the water is used elsewhere, you can get cross contamination and spread infection in the environment.
Your cleaning supplies should be kept in a cleaning supply area and that should be kept clean and tidy so there’s no risk of cross contamination from the dirty equipment to the clean equipment. All equipment for cleaning incidents should be disinfected before returning to the storage area. Other equipment such as vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners must be cleaned and wiped with a disinfectant after each use, and you want to change the filter regularly on vacuums according to the manufacturer. Those tools can often help with a hard non porous materials, but what about things like fabrics or furniture or rugs or carpets in your workplace?
First of all, do not steam-clean historic fabrics or furniture and do not steam-clean historic rugs or carpets, but modern furniture and modern rugs may be steam cleaned. Fabrics on office furniture can be cleaned with steam if the materials are heat tolerant. After initial cleaning with hot water and detergent wiping down the surfaces, you can steam-clean as long as the steam reaches a temperature, minimum temperature of 70 degrees centigrade. If this is not possible, then you want to disinfect with a suitable viral cidal disinfectant. If you have covers on your furniture, like I keep slip covers on my furniture at home, they should be laundered in 70 degrees centigrade water. Carpets should be steam cleaned or steam vacuumed using a steam cleaner, which reaches again a minimum temperature of 70 degrees centigrade. Unless the floor covering is heat sensitive or the fabric is bonded to a backing material with glue, if your tile or your carpet is glued down, then you may use a carpet shampoo instead. Carpets should be allowed to completely dry before somebody enters the backend through to the area. So hopefully some of that information will help you in cleaning your public areas.
fourth question that we have today is, how do we prevent re-contamination of the building? We’ve got the building clean. We know that the team has done their best to disinfect. How likely is it that the building could become re-contaminated with someone carrying in COVID-19? Well, there’s some research out of China that says that re-contamination of a site under mild or restrictive conditions is usually low. Mild conditions mean that people can come and go, but you’re still practicing some of the social distancing, you’re not touching people. Those, in those areas, they say that the recontamination is a little bit less than 7%. Under restrictive conditions where you monitor people who are coming in and coming out of your facility, the re-infection rate is less than about 3% so that means 97% of the time, you’re not going to see a re-infection in the building and that should be reassuring to you. So under mild conditions, it’s usually less than 7% and if you’re performing regular cleaning and disinfection tasks, you should be good.
Another thing to consider is ventilation in your building. Ventilation may be set at a maximum level for the introduction of outside air into non collection areas. And I say non collection areas because most collections are under controlled environmental conditions. You want to have the minimum amount of re-circulation of the air in your building, so you want a lot of air change with the exterior air. Now if you’re from Louisiana, that means you’re going to get humidity and it might get hot, but it’s something to consider.
On re-entering your building and opening the building to the public, you need to follow any CDC, state or local regulations for re-entering buildings. I am not a legal expert on screening of staff or visitors, and I recommend any screening plan that you might create, be vetted by your legal counsel. Employers can make their employees; can screen their employees before reentering their workplace. Examples include recommendations by the New York public health department, the state of Maryland, and other organizations. Your organization may wish to have a questionnaire for employees before re-entering the workplace. If you’re an employee, you may be asked to have your temperature read with a non-contact thermometer.
There are some research articles and recent research article published that suggests that antibody testing could show whether an individual has been exposed to the COVID-19 and recovered from the virus. It is likely that if they have antibodies in their system, they may return to work without caring or infecting others with the virus. So you may consider screening employees before entering, you might want to consider staggering the return of your employees so that not all of them are at your office at one time. You may considered using a non-contact thermometer to screen for fever, and finally, it was suggested by one article to consider having your employees antibody tested.
You may Institute a screening checklist before visitors can enter the building, and this is what the state of Maryland has done. This is an example from the state of Maryland of the types of screening that they’re going to do. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be asked to refrain from entering the building. Again, the recommendations are going to come from the CDC, your state, and your local areas.
So let’s talk about what we do back on our first day. We have now returned to work. Well, first of all, you don’t return to work if you’ve had a fever or if you have a fever. If you’ve been sick in the last two or three days, unusual cough, feeling nauseated, you may want to stay home. When you do return, you don’t want to congregate together. People haven’t seen each other in a long time, they’re going to want to talk to each other. We’ve been socially isolated for a while, but refrain from congregating together. Maintain your social distancing.
It’s vital that you clean your personal spaces that mean you’re going to want to wipe off your computer, your phone, the hand rails, elevator buttons, keyboards, light switches. Additionally, you’re going to wash your hands frequently, continue to avoid touching your face, which is a terrible thing for me. The other thing is you can work with your management to ensure that appropriate respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene is continued for customers and work-site visitors. It may be useful to provide tissues and no touch disposal receptacles. You need to provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, using an alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol should be done. Hands that are visibly dirty should be washed with soap and water. Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations and signs to encourage proper hand hygiene. You don’t want to encourage handshaking. You want to encourage other types of non-contact methods of greeting.
This covers the information that I have for you today. If more information becomes available, I’ll make sure to update you and let you know through our website or through Facebook.
There’s special thanks that goes for each and every one of these broadcast because it takes a team at NCPTT to make this happen. This includes work by Jason Church, Sean Clifford, Catherine Cooper, Vrinda Jariwala, Isabella Jones, and also we want to thank Maggie Tyler for reviewing my documentation this week.
I want to thank you for coming and watching this and I hope the information will be useful to you. Thank you so much.
About the Team
Jason Church has spent that last 17 years as a conservator focusing on masonry and metals. He is an active member of the National Heritage Responders, having taught several disaster response workshops as well as being deployed to disaster recovery in the field. Church has a MFA in Historic Preservation and is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation.
Sean Clifford is an IT Specialist with the National Park Service where he develops web and mobile projects. Before joining NPS, he developed software for DirecTV and Dish Network service providers, worked as a licensed investigator in New Orleans, and managed download software stores at SoftDisk. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College and holds an M.Ed. and Ed.S. in Educational Technology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana.
Catherine Cooper, Ph.D. is a research scientist at NCPTT, where she focuses on analysis and characterization of materials. As an analytical chemist, she completed postdoctoral research at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum and the Arizona State Museum prior to joining NCPTT. She holds a Ph.D. in Archaeological Chemistry/Anthropology from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
Vrinda Jariwala is working as a research associate at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. She is working on research on removing crude oil from cultural resources using surface washing agents. She studied A.P.D. Technical Building Conservation–a Historic Environment Scotland run programme in the field of material conservation at Engine Shed, Scotland. Jariwala did her Masters in Architectural Conservation from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
Isabella Jones is a recent graduate of Northwestern State University of Louisiana with a double major in; Biology with a concentration in natural sciences as well as a bachelor’s degree in Art with a concentration in graphic communications. Jones has joined the NCPTT team producing videos and doing graphic design.
Mary F. Striegel, Ph.D., FAIC, has 25 years of experience working as a conservation scientist with the National Park Service. She focuses on decay of cultural materials and treatments to protect them. Previously she served as a conservation scientist with the Getty Conservation Institute. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation and holds a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis.