Disinfecting Prisons During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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HealthcareJanuary 18, 2021

Disinfecting Prisons During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Enacting a Strategy to Kill Germs & Viruses in Correctional Facilities

Correctional facilities have become a hotspot for COVID-19. In fact, recent studies have shown that the novel coronavirus has spread faster in America’ jails and prisons than it did on cruise ships or at the pandemic’s outbreak in Wuhan, China. Further studies by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice report that the number of deaths among the incarcerated greatly exceeds national mortality rates. These numbers establish a pattern that experts suggest indicates the COVID-19 crisis in U.S. state and federal prisons is not yet slowing or subsiding.  As of the end of 2020, more than 275,000 prisoners had been infected with COVID-19 and 1,700 have died.

Why Prisons & Jails Are Hotspots for COVID-19

There are myriad factors that contribute to the higher rate of spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities than in the general public, including close living quarters, little opportunity for social distancing, and shared facilities. This poses heightened risk for inmates, who report higher rates of chronic disease than the general population—which has been linked to increased risk for severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). However, the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities not only puts inmates at risk, but also the surrounding communities. In particular, jails, which predominantly house those awaiting trail or inmates serving short sentences, have a higher rate of churn than state and federal penitentiaries and so have a heightened risk of community spread.

While the recent emergency authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine will aid in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in correctional institutions, a slow vaccine rollout and the potential that a sizable number of inmates opt out of the vaccine may lead to even greater spread in the interim. This, in conjunction with other diseases like the flu that spread seasonally in jails and prisons, emphasizes the importance of taking preventative measures.

While studies have shown that COVID-19 can be transmitted via the air, there is also the potential for spread via contaminated surfaces when infectious droplets and bioaerosols in the air settle onto surfaces. These surfaces then pose the risk of transferring infectious material to individuals when touched. As a result, it is critical that correctional facilities extend policies like wearing masks and frequent hand washing to include implementing better disinfection procedures.

Below are some important tips for implementing a cleaning and disinfecting strategy in jails and prisons.

  • 1. Identify high risk environments

Correctional institutions are home to a myriad of shared spaces. When implementing a disinfection strategy, it’s critical to identify these spaces and ensure you have a plan for killing germs in each. For instance, state DOC’s have reported utilizing disinfection systems in housing units, offices, work spaces, inmate transport vehicles, and common areas.

  • 2. Determine the right delivery method

 There are a number of different methods for delivering a disinfectant. Spray-and-wipe is one of the most commonly considered methods. While spray-and-wipe can be effective, it is also time consuming as every surface must be sprayed with the disinfectant and remain wet for the time indicated on the label before being wiped. This proves a number of shortcomings for prisons and jails where there are a large number of surfaces to regularly disinfect.

Another method is the electrostatic sprayer. These devices positively charge droplets, which can wrap around surfaces for more complete coverage than a spray-and wipe-solution. While electrostatic sprayers can work in certain areas of prisons and jails, they again require a large time commitment as officers must manually spray each surface.

A third method is the dry fogger. These systems have benefits over spray-and-wipe and electrostatic sprayers as they eliminate the need for officers to manually apply the solution. Instead, the disinfectant is uniformly distributed throughout an environment via a dry fog, reaching germs in all the cracks and crevices where they lurk. Best-in-class solutions like the HaloFogger® can be turned on with a single push of a button, eliminating the tedious process of mapping rooms ahead of time and making the system easy to use with little to no training.

  • 3. Use a disinfectant registered with the EPA.

When evaluating disinfectants to fight COVID-19, it is imperative to first check the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) List N. All products included on List N have been approved to kill the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 when used according to the label directions.

When selecting a solution, it’s beneficial not only to consider COVID-19, but also to consider other diseases that occur in jails and prisons. For instance, HaloMist™ disinfectant (EPA Reg. No. 84526-6) is included on both EPA List N and List K (approved to kill 99.9999% of C. diff spores), and its label includes kill claims for additional viruses, fungi, and bacteria like influenza, MRSA, norovirus, and E. coli.

  • 4. Look to practices in place at other jails and prisons.

Many prisons across the U.S. have evolved their disinfection strategies in light of the pandemic. The Delaware Department of Corrections (DOC) is one such example of a correctional institution that enacted a higher standard of disinfection to combat both COVID-19 and flu.

They have introduced the Halo Disinfection System® as a regular part of their disinfection routine, and increase usage in targeted areas if someone at the jail tests positive. Sgt. Stephen Shyers of the James. T. Vaughn Correctional Center is in charge of operating the HaloFogger® machine. In an interview with WHYY, he explained that he frequently sets up the machine in hallways and opens all doors to ensure the solution covers every area.

Disinfection is the Key to Preventing Illness in Prisons

While COVID-19 vaccines are deployed and testing processes improve, disinfection is still key to reducing not only the spread of the novel coronavirus, but other diseases that can spread in jails and prisons.

At Halosil, we have experience working with correctional institutions to provide reliable and easy-to-use disinfection solutions. For over a decade, our proven HaloMist™ sporicidal disinfectant has been trusted worldwide to kill germs. Contact Halosil today to learn more about our solution and see how it can help improve your current disinfection processes.