Environmental Health : A Key Aspect of CDC ’ s COVID-19 Response
by Padmaja Vempaty , MSW , MPH , public health analyst , Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice , National Center for Environmental Health , US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ; Trevor McCoy , MPP , MCRP , ORISE fellow , Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education ; Amy M . Cordero , MPA , associate director for policy , Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice , National Center for Environmental Health , US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ; and Erik R . Svendsen , PhD , director , Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice , National Center for Environmental Health , US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the environment .
In the pandemic ’ s early stages , CDC issued cleaning recommendations as shortages were reported of many cleaners and disinfectants . NCEH scientists and partners at the American Association of Poison Control Centers
toxico-surveillance team detected a dramatic increase in calls to poison control centers . Between January 1 – March 31 , 2020 , a review
found an increase in calls related to cleaners ( 20.4 %) and disinfectants ( 16.4 %) possibly associated with their improper use . CDC conducted a prompt follow-up study to identify important knowledge gaps , drafted safe practice recommendations and developed targeted messaging to promote safe cleaning and disinfection practices .
Lieutenant Commander Laura Annetta , Captain Aimee Treffiletti and Lieutenant Erin Kincaid of the US Public Health Service ( USPHS ) leave the Grand Princess cruise ship after monitoring a quarantine procedure . The NCEH Vessel Sanitation Program has conducted enhanced environmental assessment and surveillance to understand environmental factors that contribute to COVID-19 transmission on cruise ships and implemented disinfection and quarantine procedures onboard . Photo : James [ Scott ] Miller ( LCDR USPHS ).
The disease triad model
suggests that illnesses can spread when there is an external agent , a susceptible host and an environment that brings the host and agent together . Although environmental health ( EH ) may not often be in people ’ s minds when they think about COVID-19 illness , natural and built environments can play a substantial role in limiting or exacerbating interactions between the external agent SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — and a susceptible host .
The COVID-19 pandemic also led to closures across the US . Gradually , states began to slowly reemerge from quarantines and stay-at home orders . Communities began to gain increased awareness of unexpected , unknown and often ignored environmental health risks such as contaminated surfaces , stagnant water in building plumbing systems and unoccupied facilities . CDC staff developed tools and resources on cleaning and disinfection
and partnered with the US Environmental Protection Agency to assemble the Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation
Responding to Natural Disasters
Hurricanes , heat waves and other severe weather events offer additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic . People may find themselves asking whether it is safer to go to a crowded hurricane shelter where they could be exposed to
12 LAB MATTERS Fall 2020