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Materials Quarantine: No More than 24 Hours Needed, per CDC Epidemiologist

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Please note the date of this article. Information regarding COVID-19 is constantly evolving. We encourage you to review current information in the the Wisconsin Public Libraries Reopening Guide and the COVID-19 page for Wisconsin public libraries.

In a webinar hosted by IMLS entitled "Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections," Dr. David Berendes, phD, MSPH, epidemiologist in the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch of the CDC focusing on global sanitation and hygiene issues, stated that 24 hours is an acceptable duration for materials quarantine. Dr. Berendes added that the CDC is not concerned about books and other paper-based items (including mail and shipped packages) as a mode of transmission of the virus. As such, either disinfection of hard surfaces that tolerate wiping with the appropriate chemical disinfectants, or a 24 hour materials quarantine will suffice. Dr. Berendes advised using these CDC cleaning and disinfecting instructions, which includes a link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "List N" disinfectants that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. Hard, nonporous surfaces are the focus of epidemiological concern.

In addition, Dr. Berendes outlined the steps to be taken if you suspect that your work environment has been exposed to COVID-19:

  1. Close off the area that the individual used most for as long as possible, up to 24 hours. Note that stagnant areas such as vehicles would require a longer time, whereas environments with good airflow require less time. A well ventilated space may only need a few hours of quarantine.

  2. After quarantine, clean the space thoroughly:

    • Hard, nonporous surfaces should be cleaned with soap or detergent and then disinfected with a disinfecting agent found on the EPA’s List N. These include all hard, high-touch surfaces and items like doorknobs, tabletops. Etc.

    • Soft, porous surfaces such as carpeting, rugs, and drapes should be laundered or cleaned if possible. Fortunately, these surfaces are of less concern because the ability of the virus to release itself in an infectious state from soft surfaces once it has settled into them is unlikely. (This guidance applies to office and public facility space; plush toys and other soft items should be laundered.)

    • Electronics and such items should be wiped or sprayed with a solution containing at least 70% alcohol.

    • Personal protective equipment used by custodial staff should be put on, taken off, and disposed of correctly. Please see the CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting instructions for details.

  3. Encourage proper hand hygiene at all times, per CDC guidelines. This includes wearing disposable gloves, washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.

This information is not comprehensive. For complete instructions, refer to the CDC’s webpage on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility: Everyday Steps, Steps When Someone is Sick, and Considerations for Employers.


Submitted by Shannon Schultz, Division for Libraries and Technology



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