Cleaning for Health During a Pandemic

April 30, 2020

By Sara Porter, Vice President of External Affairs

In early March, as COVID-19 cases increased rapidly in Seattle, Gene Woodard, the Director of the Building Services Department at the University of Washington, quickly developed a cleaning protocol, trained his custodial staff and ensured his employees had all the information they needed.

“The main thing that I’ve learned is that this type of situation requires excessive communication both up, sideways and down,” Woodard said.

Woodard is one of the amazing leaders on the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Committee. For more than a decade, Healthy Schools Campaign has worked to change the way schools clean and do infection control with a focus on cleaning for health. We recently partnered with Green Seal to create the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program. Building off of the success of HSC’s work, this expanded program will be enhanced by Green Seal’s technical expertise, providing even more resources for creating healthy, sustainable and environmentally focused cleaning programs.

Ensuring that school cleaning programs support health is important because children are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards and toxic substances. Cleaning products can reduce indoor air quality, and poor indoor air quality has been linked to poor attendance.

While ensuring a school’s cleaning practices support the health of staff, students and the environment are important at all times, cleaning during a global pandemic presents unique challenges. We tapped into the expertise and leadership of our Committee to convene a series of webinars sharing their experiences addressing COVID-19. The Committee members talked about their experiences and demonstrated that a cleaning program can both engage in effective infection control while focusing on student and staff health. Hundreds of school cleaning staff attended these webinars and got valuable information and resources they put into action in their facilities.

We used the information presented and the questions attendees asked during the webinars to create a COVID-19 resource center. Our Committee members shared their cleaning protocols, training procedures, disinfection checklists and more to serve as examples for schools and universities to build on. We’re already planning to offer another webinar series focused on preparing schools for reopening.

We’re consistently amazed by the eagerness of the Committee to share their knowledge and expertise, and we’re honored that we were able to provide valuable information to schools so they can continue to support the health and wellness of the students and staff in their facilities.