Pandemic protocols generated additional, ancillary benefits, concerns

Aug. 26, 2021

Pandemic-driven air-and-surface room decontamination, along with heightened hand hygiene, wearing masks and quarantining has generated a variety of bonus outcomes, such as severely reducing the incidents of colds and flu. But that’s not all. 

Infection prevention and environmental services experts highlight other bonuses that healthcare organizations and the general public have gleaned from following pandemic protocols to the letter as well as other concerns to watch. 

Prepped public

 “COVID-19 made the public more aware of the importance of hygiene compliance, putting increased scrutiny on the cleanliness of our hospitals, healthcare and other public spaces. Not only did rigorous cleaning procedures impede the spread of cold and flu viruses within healthcare facilities and public places, they also encouraged people to regularly wash their hands and avoid touching their face. We now live in a time where people are hyperaware of the hygiene products available to them as they enter or exit a building, as well as maintaining social distance to slow the spread of germs. People are more focused than ever on health, and at Essity we want to ensure everyone can venture out with confidence.” 

Deborah Chung, North America Marketing Manager – Healthcare,
Essity Professional Hygiene

Healthcare organizations mobilized 

“From the common cold to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the pandemic placed an undeniable importance on tackling infectious diseases across the spectrum, which eventually led to the decrease of the forementioned incidents. With the deployment of advanced disinfection measures to tackle more commonplace diseases, other similarly susceptible pathogens are simultaneously being addressed. By continuing this trend well after the pandemic, hospitals are facing reduced patient liability and costs, as well as ensuring controlled environments by infection preventionists and similar risk mitigation departments. Additionally, a more refined understanding and scrutiny of disinfection methods are being demonstrated by healthcare professionals, business owners, and many others.”

Halden Shane, DPM, Chairman & CEO, TOMI Environmental Solutions Inc. 

Understanding ultraviolet effectiveness 

“For UV room disinfection, a silver lining is a renewed emphasis on separating fact vs. fiction in UV products and claims. Specifically, as new UV companies – and new product claims – emerged during the pandemic in our largely unregulated product category, healthcare professionals more than before are seeking black-and-white validation. They want independently proven pathogen inactivation at real-world times and distance that a UV device performs as claimed. Evidence matters more than ever for UV devices. This is a good thing.”   

Richard Hayes, President, UVDI

Dramatic clarion call to action 

“Sometimes significant historical events, like the pandemic, are the catalyst to lasting change and meaningful shifts in how we operate. Even prior to the pandemic, 1 in 20 patients are discharged having an infection they didn’t have when they arrived. These infections cause 100,000 deaths each year. This has been an ongoing struggle for decades. While progress has certainly been made, a major shift in protocols and the technology used for modern disinfection has not happened. Most institutions still manually disinfect even though CDC studies show it is only 50% effective and often the cause of pathogen transfer from one room to the next. The pandemic has finally empowered decision makers and prioritized resources to universally modernize our protocols and adopt superior disinfection technologies.” Ernest Cunningham, President, Nevoa Inc.

Clinically, operationally taking pandemics more seriously 

For years, hospital infection preventionists have been begging for investments in new tools and technologies to aid in the battle against healthcare associated infections. With the world’s focus on COVID-19 and stopping the spread of coronavirus, we have seen increased investment in technologies that reduce the risk of pathogen transmission within hospitals and other facilities. We saw hospitals mobilize to streamline purchasing during the peak of the pandemic. That sense of urgency was fantastic and quickly brought new resources into healthcare. That urgency needs to continue even in a world without COVID. Every day, hundreds of people contract infections while they are in the hospital. We are hopeful that the sense of urgency to stop the spread of disease continues.

“Telemedicine and telehealth played an important role during the pandemic, and we'll continue to see it utilized when the pandemic is over. Telemedicine reduces the number of people in waiting rooms and medical offices, and it reduces the stress of travel to healthcare facilities. Hand hygiene was also a major focus during the pandemic, and I think people have a new appreciation for the importance of washing their hands.” 

Mark Stibich, Ph.D., FIDSA, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer,
 Xenex Healthcare Services

Ventilation improvements

“Keeping environmental service workers safe and applying good practices and protections for their work will keep everyone safer. Although some of the new protocols were temporary, like using alternative products, will go away as the availability stabilizes. Others, like increasing education and training and use of adjunct technology to improve overall ventilation, such as with the Vidashield UV 24 system, should continue to be implemented because it has proven to be a valuable tool to control SARs-CoV-2 contamination and COVID-19 transmission. 

“Improved ventilation using adjunct UVGI system like the Vidashield UV24 has demonstrated other benefits for healthcare workers and patients including improving the overall smell in the area and decreasing other respiratory irritants and allergens that come from patient care procedures and enclosed environments. The Vidashield UV24 system can be incorporated seamlessly into existing overhead lighting or new construction and operates automatically or on by individual control decreasing the many issues with free standing floor units. Importantly, the Vidashield UV 24 system pulls contaminated air directionally up to the ceiling as opposed to wall or floor HEPA /UV portable units that pull contaminated air across the room potentially exposing individuals in the pathway.”

Karen Hoffman, R.N., CIC, FSHEA, FAPIC, Epidemiologist and Infection Prevention Consultant for NUVO Surgical and Vidashield, clinical instructor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and immediate past president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). 

Product alternatives for future challenges 

“Healthcare facilities were challenged to rapidly identify and enact pandemic protection protocols as the worldwide case count of COVID-19 infections rose. This was not only likely responsible for decreasing the spread of COVID-19 within facilities, but also in an observed downtick in other infections. Moving forward, the protocols put in place today will play a critical role in how effectively facilities can manage highly contagious illness and will ensure that hospitals are better prepared if a future pandemic situation takes place. In addition, while it was challenging at the start of the pandemic to purchase disinfection solutions, facilities have now acquired equipment like the HaloFogger and purchased disinfectants like HaloMist, which at two years has the longest dry fogging disinfectant shelf life on the market. It is always at the ready when thorough disinfection is required.”

David St. Clair, Executive Chairman, Halosil International Inc. 

Eye-opening education on viral spread 

“The pandemic has educated most of us on how pathogens spread. Hand-washing, hand sanitizing and awareness of how many times we touch our faces must continue. This is a great outcome, and awareness of aerosolized pathogens and education on how bugs spread will be a large part of public health initiatives to come. One terrible outcome of this pandemic is the politicization of science. Conversely, this same argument can be made for the general mistrust of all media as people are getting smarter, inquisitive and well read. Everyone is aware of the risk of pandemics moving forward. Ignorance is bliss, and luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. We are no longer ignorant, so we are stressed. We are more prepared than last year. When the next wave hits, we might just get lucky.”

Brian Donahue, Director, Sales & Corporate Accounts, Finsen Technologies Ltd. 

Heightened awareness 

“A huge win for infection prevention is the heightened awareness by virtually everyone of pathogens in the environment and the resulting illnesses, and how to mitigate the threat. This is a good outcome of COVID and will hopefully have caused a cultural change in human behavior that will have a long-lasting positive impact.”

Sam Trapani, CEO, Steriliz LLC 

Holistic approach to environmental infection control 

“The increased focus on environmental infection control combined with other infection prevention measures, such as universal source control with masking, certainly has multiple benefits, which include reduced respiratory infections, such as Influenza. Respiratory viruses are a constant threat in both healthcare and community settings. Recent evidence has suggested that a more significant focus needs to be placed on basic infection prevention measures such as hand hygiene, environmental disinfection, the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the use of adjunct technologies, such as electrostatic disinfection. By reducing the viable pathogens on the environmental surfaces, and consistently following disinfectants’ instructions for use, the continued application of pandemic infection control protocols can also continue to mitigate the risks of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) as well as occupational health exposures to the healthcare workforce.”

J. Hudson Garrett Jr., Ph.D., MSN, MPH, MBA, FNP-BC, IP-BC, PLNC, CFER, AS-BC, VA-BC, BC-MSLcert, NREMT, MSL-BC, DICO-C, TR-C, CPPS, CPHQ, FACDONA, FAAPM, FNAP, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine, Faculty, Center for Education and Training in Infection Prevention (CETIP), Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine; President & CEO, Community Health Associates LLC, which serves as a consultant to Clorox Healthcare 

The butterfly effect

“Many infectious disease illnesses have trended way below their normal averages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to reduced cases. Interventions such as lockdowns, especially in schools and daycares, restaurant closures, physical distancing, heightened hygiene awareness and practices such as handwashing, disinfection and wearing of face masks may have helped curb other illnesses during this period. 

“Now with the reopening of schools, daycares and community activities, we will likely see an increase or even surges in many viruses and illnesses that we’ve kept at bay during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respiratory illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus and even influenza may be gearing up for a huge surge in the coming months. We are already seeing a surge in RSV, which prompted an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 1 Additionally, a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article noted that, “circulation of respiratory viruses could resume at pre-pandemic levels after COVID-19 mitigation practices become less stringent. Clinicians should be aware of increases in some respiratory virus activity and remain vigilant for off-season increases.” 2 

“We may also see similar surges in gastrointestinal illnesses related to viral pathogens such as norovirus. The 2019-2020 norovirus season coincided with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, norovirus cases went down. Relaxing of all the interventions from the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned previously, and other factors such as using more alcohol-based hand sanitizers instead of handwashing, not having proper disinfectants that kill norovirus (which is harder to kill than coronaviruses), may lead to an increase in norovirus. In the United Kingdom, they’re already experiencing a surge in norovirus outbreaks. A recent article noted this increase stating, “Over the last five weeks from the end of May into July (2021), there have been 154 reported norovirus outbreaks in England. That’s nearly three times the 53-outbreak average over the same time period during the previous five years. Most of the increase has occurred in educational settings, particularly in nursery and childcare facilities.” 3

Deva Rea, R.N., CIC, Clinical Science Liaison, PDI

1 CDC Health Alert Network Advisory. Increased Interseasonal Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Activity in Parts of the Southern United States. Available at:
 2 Olsen SJ, Winn AK, Budd AP, et al. Changes in Influenza and Other Respiratory Virus Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, 2020–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1013–1019. DOI:
 3 Lee, Bruce. 154 Norovirus Outbreaks In England As Covid-19 Precautions Relaxed. Forbes. July 2021. Available at: