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COVID-19 can remain on bank notes and glass surfaces for 28 days: Study

Research emphasizes the importance of hand washing and stringent in-store cleaning regimes

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Coronavirus may remain for weeks on bank notes and glass surfaces, such as touchscreen, according to new research from the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness.

The study, which set out to examine the “effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces” shows the virus is “extremely robust.”

Polymer bank notes (like the ones used here in Canada), de-monetised paper bank notes and common surfaces, including brushed stainless steel, glass, vinyl and cotton cloth were used as substrates in this study.

The research showed SARS-CoV-2 can survive  for 28 days on smooth surfaces, such as glass on mobile phone screens or self-checkout touchscreens, and plastic banknotes, at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to 17 days survival for the flu virus.

According to the scientists involved in the study, “These findings demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for significantly longer time periods than generally considered possible. These results could be used to inform improved risk mitigation procedures to prevent the fomite spread of COVID-19.

“While the primary spread of SARS-CoV-2 appears to be via aerosols and respiratory droplets, fomites may also be an important contributor in transmission of the virus.”

In essence, these findings reinforce the importance of hand-washing or using hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) after handling cash, opening doors, using an ATM, self-checkout machines or entering a PIN at checkout: All best practices for c-store operators and shoppers. In addition, the research emphasizes the importance of cleaning commonly touched surfaces, including door handles, fridges and freezers. countertops, ATMs, fuel pumps, car wash equipment and debit machines.


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C-store customers want clean bathrooms and hand sanitizer stations: Study

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As provinces and regions enter new stages of re-opening in the era of COVID-19, more drivers will be on the roads, whether commuting to work, visiting reopened businesses or summer travels—and that could present opportunities for convenience stores.

Overall, 84% of drivers surveyed say they will be visiting convenience stores on their journeys: 23% say they will shop at convenience stores as part of their regular routine, 38% say they will shop at stores when they need something, and an additional 23% say they will only purchase gas at convenience stores, according to a consumer survey conducted for the National Association of Convenience Stores by PSB Insights. While the survey is U.S.-based, consumer insights are applicable here, too.

When it comes to enticing customers in store as travel picks up, the major focus is on cleanliness.

With gas prices still relatively low, consumers are looking to other offers within the store, with safety and comfort with store operations now paramount. Nearly half of customers surveyed (48%) say they have a store brand preference, and 37% of those with a preference say cleanliness is a factor driving that preference.

As essential services, convenience stores in Canada were early adopters in addressing protective measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is, as most retailers are trying to adjust to the new precautions, most c-stores have systems in place.

READ: C-stores meet consumers’ needs during the pandemic: CICC

Here are some other cleanliness-focused insights from the consumer survey:

  • Cash sales are down. The percentage of customers paying for gas by cash dropped from 21% in January to 14% in May, as many consumers are shying away from handling cash and seeking options that minimize contact.
  • Hand sanitizer access is the top priority for consumers. Consumers rated access to hand sanitizer in-store (68%) and at the fuel pump (67%) as the top two choices when asked which of 11 enhanced safety procedures they thought were appropriate to implement at convenience stores.
  • Bathrooms are top safety concerns. Consumers said bathrooms were the biggest concern for exposure to COVID-19 (54%), followed by concerns contracting the virus from other customers (47%) and from doors and surfaces (47%).

Consumers also weighed in on community engagement. More than one in three consumers said they would be much more likely to shop at a store that was actively supporting charitable causes.

READ: Petroleum sector pledges support during COVID-19 

  • The more direct the donation, the better: Distributing food (30%) and personal protective equipment (18%) directly to those needing them rated the highest when consumers were asked to name the most important donation—ahead of grants and donations to food banks (16%) or monetary contributions to hospital workers (11%).
  • All news is local: If businesses are doing charitable work, consumers most want to see it on the local news (69%), far ahead of social media (42%) and in-store signage (35%).
  • Charity is contagious.When asked what actions they would take as a result of a store doing charitable work, 39% said they would tell others about it. And it may also spur a movement: 34% would donate directly to that charity, and 29% would join a fundraiser.

“The findings also show that there are opportunities for convenience retailers to capture sales from consumers increasingly looking to re-establish routines,” Jeff Lenard, NACS VP of strategic industry initiatives, said in a release. “Those who can address consumer concerns about cleanliness and their communities and build upon that with a compelling offer can find ways to grow their sales over the coming months.”


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Refrigeration cleaning tips to protect against COVID-19 and food-borne bacteria

With convenience stores and micro markets declared essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, your site likely adopted a stricter cleaning routine to prevent the virus spread. This is also an ideal time to look at best practices for food safety, because commercial refrigerators and freezers can quickly become bacterial carriers if not properly maintained. 

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Given the right conditions, bacteria found in food can double every 10 minutes, which means that 1,000 bacteria can grow to 1/2 million about 90 minutes! So, let’s look at how to create conditions where neither COVID-19 or food-borne bacteria can survive. 

Cleaning 101

Research shows COVID-19 can survive up to nine days onmetal, glass and plastic if these surfaces are not properly disinfected. While it can be tempting to saturate your refrigerated units with a strong cleaner like bleach or ammonia, don’t, as these products can contaminate food. 

Instead, use a soft cloth with a non-abrasive liquid detergent cleaner mixed with water. Soap and water are proven to eliminate the virus, as soap interferes with the fats in the virus shell, which lifts the virus from surfaces and is then rinsed off with water. (This is also why frequent handwashing is effective at preventing the virus spread.)

We recommend deep cleaning your refrigeration units monthly, but exterior door handles and doors are high-traffic areas and should be wiped down several times a day. While most sites these days have hand sanitizer available for customers to use at the checkout counter, it’s also a good idea to provide hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand wipes (with at least 70% alcohol content) directly beside any refrigerated merchandisers.

Before deep cleaning your unit’s interior or exterior, always unplug it. Neverapply or spray any undiluted cleaner directly to the unit, since excessive liquid can seep into the electrical connections and cause a malfunction or electrical hazard. To avoid any contamination, ensure all cleaning materials are cleaned themselves (for instance, use a fresh cloth each time) and stored so bacteria is not transferred from one surface to another. Also, keep cleaning equipment for refrigeration units separate from those used for floors or other store equipment.

Cleaning also gives you a chance to inspect the unit for any damage. For example, when wiping down the door gaskets and glass, check for gaps or tears in the gaskets, which can cause air leakage or a build-up of dirt or grease. If you’re not able to snap them back into place, they need to be replaced. Most units are self-defrosting, but if you have manual defrost units, follow the manufacturer’s instructions—regular defrosting is essential, as it helps prevent serious damage to compressors. 

If your unit has a conventional condenser, it should also be cleaned monthly to avoid breakdowns caused by an overworked motor. To clean it, remove the front grill, switch off on the control panel and unplug it, then use a small, hand-held duster to clean inside, and, if necessary, a vacuum cleaner for any additional debris. Don’t forget to reattach the front grill, which helps to protect the condenser from debris and damage.Some units are built with low maintenance condensers, which require regular visual inspections and much less frequent cleaning than conventional condensers.

 Freezers need to breath

Screen Shot 2020-06-11 at 10.41.35 AMWithout optimal airflow, you risk a blocked condenser, which can result in equipment failure, overheating, spoiled product, higher electrical costs and even a possible void on your warranty. 

  •     Position each unit away from the surrounding walls
  •     Ensure each unit has a dedicated electrical outlet 
  •     Situate away from other equipment that radiates heat or produces airborne oil and grime
  •     Inspect regularly to check for blockages 

In addition, distribute the product evenly inside the unit, as overloading blocks interior airflow, which can lead to spoiled food and equipment damage. Cabinets are also better able to maintain a stable temperature if they’re stocked, but not overstocked, versus empty, as the thermal mass of the refrigerated or frozen products helps to maintain the interior temperature.

Temperature matters 

Technically, a refrigeration unit can’t get a “fever”, but temperature variations are a serious threat to food safety, potentially contributing to bacteria growth, pathogens and cross-contamination. 

In an environment where doors are being opened and closed frequently, maintaining optimal temperatures within the unit is crucial. For example, chilled foods, such as sandwiches should be kept within the 37°F to 41°F range. Short spikes, not exceeding 30 minutes, above 41°F are acceptable. 

 If you do not have a temperature malfunctioning safeguard, you should aim to monitor temperatures frequently each hour to make sure they are within the healthy range. Since you need to sanitize the handles on merchandiser doors often, you can do both cleaning and temperature monitoring tasks at once. 

 Randy Skyba is the vice-president of sales and marketing at Minus Forty Technologies in Georgetown, Ont. He helps retailers merchandise their frozen and refrigerated products.


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COVID-19 cleaning strategies: A Q&A with Dr. Andrew Landa  

Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 12.35.06 PMCanada’s car washes know a thing or two about making vehicles shine and look their best. With the COVID-19 challenge, this expertise may be called upon to not only remove grit and grime but get cars and trucks clean on a microbial level as well. Recently we had an opportunity to discuss these needs with ZEP Vehicle Care’s Director of R&D, Dr. Andrew Landa a medical microbiologist who spearheads the science behind the clean.

OCTANE: How are you seeing car wash operators step up to help with COVID-19?

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Dr. LandaWe are seeing that operators are taking the safety of their staff very seriously. It can be a huge challenge to have people sanitizing car interiors. However, this must be done for police, first responders, taxis and other essential services as well as rental cars. UBER has reached out to us for advice and assistance with products such as hand sanitizers and other disinfectants.

At the gas station and car wash, bathrooms must be kept spotless and monitored well beyond what is done on a usual basis. Pay Stations and other touchpoints must be cleaned after each use and care should be taken to clean and sanitize those touchpoints while not possibly damaging the electronic components.

There is fear among businesses and staff. Organizations such as ours can help with knowledge about techniques and products. We can discuss the type of cleaning necessary, how to sanitize and show the steps. For example, just using a sanitizing spray on a dirty surface is not effective. A surface must first be cleaned of surface grime and then disinfected to achieve the desired results.

OCTANE: Do you have advice on best practises for car wash sites in this current crisis?

Dr. LandaAutomatic wash sites offer a no interaction service and are the safest option for exterior cleaning. Express exterior wash sites may be a bit more interactive with customers often having to choose their wash options. Here sites could offer clean styluses (a small pen-shaped instrument where the tip can be detected on a touchscreen. It is used to draw, or make selections by tapping, on devices such as mobile phones, ATMs, and car wash selectors) to customers to use on the pushbuttons. These devices can be placed in a small container of disinfectant for customers who can use them in place of fingers to push selections. The best case is for customers to utilize digital apps on mobile devices that allow choice and take payments. Interior detailing services are very quiet right now, but with the right protective equipment and proper knowledge, operators can offer their special skills to clean vehicles belonging to essential services.  

OCTANE: What are the products that are useful in the fight against COVID-19?

Dr. LandaWe have a wide range of products such as Spirit II, a hospital-grade germicidal detergent and Whirl Away aerosol germicidal surface cleaner that are useful in this challenge. However, we ask people to look to organizations such as the CDC and EPA in the US and Health Canada in Canada for guidelines. It is important to read and follow all label instructions and guidelines for these products to be fully effective. Most products need to be applied and then allowed to rest on surfaces for several minutes to do the job. First, clean for debris and general grime and then apply a germicide. It is the same for hands. However, hands can have other challenges caused by frequent washing and for this reason, we advise health care professionals as well at the general public to utilize lotions to keep the skin smooth and in better shape to hold off germs and viruses.

OCTANE: What other advice do you have for operators?

Dr. LandaFirst and foremost would be to wash your hands. As well, post guidelines where not just staff can see them, but let customers see you are taking this challenge very seriously and let customers know you are cleaning and sanitizing all touchpoints constantly. Monitor your staffs health and be prepared to take action immediately if a team member shows signs of illness. And, lastly, work with your chemical suppliers to get the right products to do the job.


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Sinclair Cleaning Systems: Combat COVID-19 with a proven cleaning and disinfecting combo

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Optima Steamer XD

Clean, disinfect and knock-out viruses with the one-two punch of dry vapour steam and an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant.

In order to properly clean and disinfect, even tiny nooks and crannies, Sinclair Cleaning Systems recommends the Optima Steamer XD in conjunction with Concrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II. The two work together to offer an effective cleaning and disinfection strategy that both sanitizes and deodorizes.

Ideal for many uses, from general retail cleaning to foodservice and automotive detailing for fleets, it’s the perfect combination to help protect your staff and customers.

unnamedConcrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II is next-generation botanical disinfection technology that safely and effectively eliminates viruses and bacteria.

The Optima Steamer, which reaches a temperature of 275°F at the sprayer tip, even cleans and sterilizes hard to reach areas. This next-level steamer uses the latest technology to remove stains, grease, dirt and odours in a quick and efficient manner, all while generating no waste water run-off.

Steam is proven to be safe for a variety of surfaces, including upholstery, vehicle interiors and exteriors, and floors, as well as other non-porous surfaces – indoors or out.

Contact Hugh Sinclair TODAY at:

1-800-265-0505 or 1-519-436-9539

For more information, visit Sinclair Cleaning Systems

 


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Petro-Canada takes action after confirmed case of COVID-19

After a confirmed case of COVID-19 associated its location at 1977 Kennedy Rd in Scarborough, Ont., Petro‑Canada outlined a number of safety measures it is taking to keep customers and staff safe at it gas locations.

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Scarborough site where COVID patient worked.

In a statement, the company said the team member’s last shift on site was overnight on March 24 and all other employees that may have been exposed are self-isolating for the required 14 days.

Petro-Canada immediately closed the location for a deep-clean and sanitization before reopening the site. The local public health authority was notified and “out of an abundance of caution,” the company said it was reaching out to known guests of the site and in the vicinity of the site.

“It has been challenging for us all over the last few weeks, as we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep essential services running.  We’re proud of everyone in Canada who is doing their part to support this effort,” the company said in a statement, adding Petro‑Canada locations across Canada are taking a number of additional steps to proactively support physical distancing, they include:

  • placing indicators on store floors to ensure people remain at a safe distance from one another
  • installing plexiglass shields at the main pay counters
  • limiting the number of customers at a time in larger stores
  • encouraging customers to pay at the pump where and when possible

“We are also continuing our increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures, focused on high-touch surfaces,” the company added.


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Circle K stores introduce critical emergency measures

Couche-Tard LogoAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, Alimentation Couche-Tard and its wholly owned subsidiary Circle K, are implementing critical emergency measures for the protection and support of the health and safety of its customers and employees around the globe.

In provinces and territories across Canada, c-stores remain open, serving communities.

New screens at cash.

New screens at cash.

Brian Hannasch, Couche-Tard president and CEO, said in a release: “I know these are stressful, difficult days as we see the effects of this global pandemic on our lives, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. As a company, we are deeply committed to being part of the solution for our customers and our employees. Our team members are working hard to create impactful measures to serve our communities, and I have never been prouder to be the leader of this company.”

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Lines help enforce social distancing

With a focus on the health and safety of its employees and customers, strategies include:

  • Enacting stringent cleaning measures several times daily anywhere hands touch from surfaces, screens, pumps, restrooms and more.
  • Increasing safety, hygiene, and packaging around food and beverages
  • Installing clear barriers at cash registers to protect customers and employees from coughs, sneezes or other possible exposure
  • Reinforcing best hygiene practices through digital media and display screens at registers
  • Marking stores for social distancing at the checkout line
  • Putting frequently asked questions and answers on its website concerning how stores are operating during these unprecedented times and what our customers can expect in terms of store closing and sanitizing procedures if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 9.25.26 AMIn addition, as a thank you, free coffee, tea and polar pop are being offered to first responders and health care workers, as well as to store employees.

Measure designed to help hourly store employees on the frontline of this crisis, include:

  • Emergency Sick Care Plan for hourly employees in North America that includes both a bank of sick pay hours, as well as a pay continuation benefit if someone is either diagnosed with COVID-19 or is placed under a mandatory quarantine.
  • Emergency Appreciation Pay premium for store employees in North America of an additional $2.50 to base hourly rate of pay for all hours worked.

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COVID-19: 5 ways to safeguard workers and customers

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Cleanliness is next to godliness, especially in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic. C-stores, gas stations and car washes can do their part to help keep the population healthy with a few simple steps.

1 – Talk to staff about the seriousness of the situation and the need to take special efforts to safeguard both workers and customers. Health authorities indicate the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours and up to several days.

2 – Have cleaning solutions and tools ready. According to Public Health Ontario (www.publichealthontario.ca) many commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19. Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) and follow manufacturers’ instructions.

3 – Establish a cleaning routine and follow it. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least twice per day. These include dispenser nozzles, payment buttons, squeegee handles, fuel selector switches and trash receptacles. Pay attention to door handles and light switches to the c-store and wipe all counters and cooler doors with a disinfectant. Bathrooms need to be a constant focus and all surfaces need to be disinfected repeatedly throughout the day. Wipe and clean all vending systems as well.

4 – Staff safety is important. Make sure crews have disposable latex gloves if they are detailing cars and discuss the importance of keeping hands away from faces. Gloves should be discarded into a lined receptacle after each vehicle is cleaned. If reusable gloves are used make sure they are only used for a specific task.

5 – Know your cleaning products.

Cleaners: These break down grease and remove organic material from the surface. Cleaners can be used separately before using disinfectants and can be purchased with cleaner and disinfectant combined in a single product.

Disinfectants: These have chemicals that kill most germs and are typically used after surfaces have been cleaned. These have a Drug Identification Number (DIN).

Disinfectant wipes: These have combined cleaners and disinfectants in one solution. Disinfectant wipes may become dry due to fast-drying properties and should be discarded if they become dry and are not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.

Bleach solution: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per five litres of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per litre of water.

RELATED READ: Prevention training video for operators and staff