Janitors Gear Up, Spread Out In Fight Against Coronavirus

Mar 30, 2020

Earlier this year, as health officials began tallying coronavirus cases across the United States, Janitorial Services Inc. in Cleveland was stocking up on hospital-grade disinfectant.

“I bought about a year’s worth in a month and a half,” owner Ronald Martinez told ideastream. “And believe it or not, we’re probably down to 20 percent of what I bought, because we’ve been putting it out in the buildings, even though it’s not part of their normal daily disinfecting.”

Janitors are on the front lines of the pandemic, cleaning and disinfecting offices that are still open for business during Ohio’s stay-at-home order. While the basics of the job remain the same, cleaners are taking new precautions to protect themselves and their workplaces.

JSI has ordered masks and more Tyvek full-body suits, Martinez said. The company also keeps thermometers on site to take employees’ temperatures. Workers with fevers are supposed to stay home and take a sick day.

Janitors in the company’s medical cleaning division wear suits when cleaning areas exposed to someone who may have COVID-19, Martinez said.

“In that instance, that area is isolated,” JSI general manager Doug Burston said. “We come in, do a disinfecting wipe-down first.”

Next, janitors spray down the area using a Clorox Total 360 atomized bleach machine, Burston said.

Cleaning work has picked up at the ArcelorMittal steel mill, according to janitor Rodney Shelton. Like many manufacturers, the company is exempt from the state’s closure orders.

“We work regularly Monday through Friday, second shift,” Shelton said. “Now we’re able to come in on Saturday and Sunday. It’s not mandatory, but most people are coming in to pick up extra hours, get a few hours overtime.”

Shelton typically rode to his assignments around the steel mill’s massive campus in shuttle vans packed with as many as 10 to 12 colleagues, he said. Now, no more than five people are allowed in a van at a time.

At the beginning and end of each shift, janitors disinfect “touch points” like doorknobs and lights—spots that could be vectors for the spread of the virus. To keep themselves and their colleagues safe, janitors have added face masks to their uniforms.

“It seems like normal, other than when you get outside, or when you’re moving around through your area, and you see people with masks on,” Shelton said. “That’s the only thing that’s different, that looks weird.”

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