Effectiveness of various cleaning strategies in acute and long-term care facilities during novel corona virus 2019 disease pandemic-related staff shortages


Infectious Diseases

Document Type


Publication Title

PloS One


BACKGROUND: Cleanliness of hospital surfaces helps prevent healthcare-associated infections, but comparative evaluations of various cleaning strategies during COVID-19 pandemic surges and worker shortages are scarce. PURPOSE AND METHODS: To evaluate the effectiveness of daily, enhanced terminal, and contingency-based cleaning strategies in an acute care hospital (ACH) and a long-term care facility (LTCF), using SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) assays. Daily cleaning involved light dusting and removal of visible debris while a patient is in the room. Enhanced terminal cleaning involved wet moping and surface wiping with disinfectants after a patient is permanently moved out of a room followed by ultraviolet light (UV-C), electrostatic spraying, or room fogging. Contingency-based strategies, performed only at the LTCF, involved cleaning by a commercial environmental remediation company with proprietary chemicals and room fogging. Ambient surface contamination was also assessed randomly, without regard to cleaning times. Near-patient or high-touch stationary and non-stationary environmental surfaces were sampled with pre-moistened swabs in viral transport media. RESULTS: At the ACH, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected on 66% of surfaces before cleaning and on 23% of those surfaces immediately after terminal cleaning, for a 65% post-cleaning reduction (p = 0.001). UV-C enhancement resulted in an 83% reduction (p = 0.023), while enhancement with electrostatic bleach application resulted in a 50% reduction (p = 0.010). ATP levels on RNA positive surfaces were not significantly different from those of RNA negative surfaces. LTCF contamination rates differed between the dementia, rehabilitation, and residential units (p = 0.005). 67% of surfaces had RNA after room fogging without terminal-style wiping. Fogging with wiping led to a -11% change in the proportion of positive surfaces. At the LTCF, mean ATP levels were lower after terminal cleaning (p = 0.016). CONCLUSION: Ambient surface contamination varied by type of unit and outbreak conditions, but not facility type. Removal of SARS-CoV-2 RNA varied according to cleaning strategy. IMPLICATIONS: Previous reports have shown time spent cleaning by hospital employed environmental services staff did not correlate with cleaning thoroughness. However, time spent cleaning by a commercial remediation company in this study was associated with cleaning effectiveness. These findings may be useful for optimizing allocation of cleaning resources during staffing shortages.

First Page








Publication Date


PubMed ID