NBC 5 Responds: Cleaning to Combat COVID-19? An Expert Weighs-In

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When Luis Correa came down with a fever, chills and a scratchy throat, a test confirmed he was positive for COVID-19. Correa said his worst fear was spreading the virus to his family.

“Getting my mother sick or getting my partner sick,” said Correa. “That was always in the back of my mind.”

The NBC 5 Responds team heard similar stories from North Texans, worried about containing the spread within their homes – especially when social distancing may be difficult and disinfectant supplies can be hard to find in stores.

Dr. Diana Cervantes is the Director of the Epidemiology Program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and said there are some good practices for families facing COVID-19.

“You want to make sure, as much as possible, to keep that person separated from other people in the household,” said Cervantes. “As much as possible, have one person be the primary caretaker of that individual.”

The primary caretaker should wear a mask whenever within six feet of the sick household member.

When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, Cervantes said clean first then disinfect.

“You want to make sure that you're cleaning first because cleaning helps bring down the number of bacteria and viruses down,” said Cervantes. “And then the disinfection goes another step.”

Once you wipe up a mess with soap and water, use disinfectant on the clean surface. The EPA published this list of products that meet its criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Cervantes said alcohol-based products should contain at least 70% alcohol.

If using a homemade bleach solution, make sure the bleach is not expired. Read the label as some color-safe or whitening bleach products won’t work as a disinfectant. According to the CDC, the bleach should have a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5% - 6%.

You can use four teaspoons of bleach per quart of room temperature water and because bleach breaks down in water, a homemade solution is only effective for up to 24 hours.

Cervantes said it’s important to follow manufacturer instructions for disinfectant products, including giving the product time to dry on a surface – usually between one to five minutes.

“Sometimes, I do see people waving things down or blowing on them to dry those types of disinfectants, you don’t want to do that,” Cervantes explained.

Scientists have determined the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for hours or even days, but transmission is much more likely through respiratory droplets.

“What we really want to know is how much virus can survive on a surface that can make me sick? Usually, that's not going to be more than maybe a few hours at the most,” explained Cervantes.

“The most important thing is: even if the virus can survive on surfaces, it's not going to get to you unless you touch that surface and then touch your eyes, your nose, your mouth. That's why handwashing is so very important,” she added.

It’s not clear how long the air may be infectious in a room where someone with COVID-19 stayed.

“You could definitely take an extra step and open the windows in that room and let it air out for 24 hours,” said Cervantes.

Cervantes said she would recommend closing it off and opening the windows to air out for 24 hours.

Cervantes also said wearing eye protection, gloves and disinfecting in a well-ventilated room need to be part of the prescription for combating COVID-19 at home.

“I think when it comes to the cleaning and disinfection, the bigger danger is getting exposed to a chemical versus getting sick with the virus. You want to be careful.”

Correa has since recovered from his bout with COVID-19. His partner never did get sick, but the stress of wondering is a side effect Correa hopes to never feel again.

“Just feeling worried about what could happen next or what if my partner gets sick or how are we going to deal with this together?” Correa said.

“It was a mental fight that I had to go through for a couple of weeks,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published these guidelines for cleaning and disinfection for households with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our Customer Complaint form.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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