As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to make critical operational changes for the safety of their customers and staff. While some businesses may have closed their doors temporarily, the majority of food processing and service-oriented facilities have continued to work with limited crews to keep up with the increasing consumer demand for food. With less foot traffic, however, hungry pests have been able to roam unfettered in search of available food sources, entering buildings and creating additional challenges. As closed businesses prepare to reopen and others welcome back additional crew members, they must address pest issues that may have taken hold to ensure a safe return.
While CDC maintains there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or pests, according to the CDC, pests are capable of contaminating food and transmitting other deadly diseases to humans. Rodents, for example, contaminate or consume about 20 percent of the world’s food supply and can transmit diseases such as Salmonella and hantavirus to humans. Rodents in particular have grown extremely desperate during this time, as their usual food sources, including restaurant dumpsters and garbage cans, are often empty, forcing them to search for alternate resources in areas such as residential neighborhoods, schools, food processing and service facilities, and even cars. If any food items are not stored properly in these facilities, these savvy pests are likely to find them. Many pests’ usual places of refuge have also been cut off, making dark, undisturbed areas with excess moisture ideal breeding and nesting sites.
Due to these changes in pest behavior, facility managers must be diligent in preparing their buildings for reopening or increased occupancy. The very first step in readying any facility is to partner with a licensed pest control company to help implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan specific to your facility. By using this three-part practice, which consists of inspection, identification, and treatment, pest professionals will assess the property and pinpoint and address any problem areas, helping to protect employees from the diseases and structural damage caused by pests.
With less foot traffic [at closed facilities] hungry pests have been able to roam unfettered in search of available food sources, entering buildings and creating additional challenges.
In addition to working with a licensed pest control company, managers should also take the following steps to safely reopen or prepare their facilities for the return of additional employees:
- Survey the grounds. Be sure to clear any vegetation that may have grown close to the building, as this can attract pests. Eliminate areas of standing water on the property, as mosquitoes can breed in as little as half an inch of water. Additionally, exterior lighting fixtures that use mercury-vapor bulbs are extremely attractive to pests like spiders, ants, and flies. Opt for a less-attractive option such as low-sodium bulbs whenever possible, or ensure that lights with these bulbs are at least 150 feet away from the facility.
- Examine the building exterior. Repair any cracks or holes on the exterior of the building, especially where utility pipes enter the building, as mice can fit through openings as small as a dime. Also, excess water buildup can attract pests, so ensure that all gutters are clear of debris and direct water away from the building through properly functioning downspouts and splash blocks.
- Look for signs of infestation. Keep a close eye out for the telltale signs of a rodent infestation, such as live or dead rodents, nests, and gnaw and rub marks. Be sure to pay extra attention to kitchen and bathroom areas for signs of a cockroach infestation, such as droppings or eggs, as these areas are particularly attractive to such insects.
- Scrutinize upholstery. Check for any signs of a bed bug infestation, such as small red to reddish brown fecal spots, molted bed bug skins, their white, sticky eggs, or empty eggshells. Pay close attention to the seams of furniture and upholstery in break rooms and other communal areas.
- Clean common areas. Sanitize and vacuum all areas, including offices, hallways, lobbies, kitchens and public bathrooms on a daily basis. Wipe down counter tops and sweep floors to remove crumbs and residue from spills. Additionally, ensure that any food products are stored in sealed containers to prevent pests from contaminating them.
Facility managers have been working tirelessly to keep employees safe and healthy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. By following the steps outlined above, in addition to all CDC guidelines, and by working with a trained professional pest control company, facility managers can help to ensure that employees and facilities are protected from the threats posed by pests.