Wednesday November 16, 2022 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated November 17, 2022]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Hand hygiene during the fall/winter respiratory season was highlighted several times in a livestreamed media update today by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
That included Minister Dix saying to “wash hands with soap and water” and to “wash hands frequently”. There was no mention of the use of hand sanitizers.
Hand washing has always been considered more effective (against viral spread) than alcohol-based sanitizers, but there was no direction from the top today to the many businesses, schools and community venues that have invested in providing hand-sanitizing stations.
School District 62 schools (in Langford, Colwood and Sooke) will continue to offer hand sanitizing stations in schools as they follow the BCCDC and the Ministry of Education Guidelines for K-12 Settings.
All students and staff are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene habits throughout the day but especially before eating, after using the restroom, etc.
Staff will also assist younger students with hand hygiene, as needed, said SD62 administration today.
BC CDC hand washing guidance to schools:
“Schools should facilitate regular opportunities for hand hygiene. This can include using portable hand-washing sites and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers containing at least 60% alcohol,” says BC CDC in their guidance to schools.
Schools are to use commercial hand sanitizer products that have met Health Canada’s requirements and are authorized for sale in Canada.
• Ensure hand hygiene supplies are always well stocked including soap, paper towels (or air drier) and where appropriate, alcohol-based hand rub with a minimum of 60% alcohol.
• If hands are visibly soiled, alcohol-based hand sanitizer may not be effective at eliminating microbes. Soap and water are preferred when hands are visibly dirty. If it is not available, use an alcohol-based hand wipe followed by alcohol-based hand rub.
BC Centre for Disease Control public health recommendations for K-12 schools can be found online.
“Rigorous hand washing with plain soap and water or using an effective hand sanitizer reduces the spread of illness,” says the Ministry of Health.
“Everyone should practice diligent hand hygiene and schools should facilitate regular opportunities for students and staff to wash their hands,” it is stated by the BC Ministry of Health this week.
During the COVID pandemic there was never a requirement for classrooms to have sinks or hand sanitizer. “The requirement was hand hygiene stations (hand sanitizer in most cases) at entrances and that student have access to hand hygiene stations,” says SD62.
However, BC Health did — in the peak times of the pandemic — recommend that students be advised to clean their hands when arriving in the classroom, and before eating.
At the new schools (Pexsisen Elementary School and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School), bathrooms have non-touch hand washing at the bathroom sinks. Each sink station offers water and soap from non-touch dispensers.
The COVID-related maintenance budget for sanitizing stations and enhanced cleaning had to be boosted during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
SD62 has since then reduced some levels of custodial time for ‘enhanced cleaning’, going back to regular cleaning, as discussed at Resources Committee meetings earlier this year.
SD62 says that the current requirement is “to ensure hand-washing supplies are always well stocked including soap, paper towels (or air dryer) and where appropriate, alcohol-based hand rub with a minimum of 60% alcohol.”
“We will ensure that requirement is met and each school will be fully stocked with hand hygiene materials,” says SD62.
Investment in hand sanitizers:
Upon the recommendation (and in some cases regulation) of the use of hand sanitizers, many businesses, schools, offices and public spaces in BC have made a significant investment in the installation and maintenance of hand sanitizing equipment since the start of the pandemic in winter/spring 2020.
That was an additional cost during the pandemic, and will have added to maintenance budgets in businesses and schools.
Masks still recommended:
“Masks still need to be available and acceptable in workplaces,” said Dr Henry today. But there was no mention of a mask mandate.
Today Dr Henry encouraged people to follow their own common sense as to when and where to wear masks, including attention to ventilation and the size of indoor room spaces.
Today Dr Henry emphasized the importance of vaccination against COVID and influenza, as powerful tools against becoming infected and minimizing the impact of infection (reducing the incidence of sever illness, hospitalization or death).
Today Dr Henry said that school absenteeism related to public health is monitored regularly, including by a committee that meets weekly.
SD62 said this week there is no evident increase in students staying home due to illness.
Today’s media update regarding COVID and respiratory illness in BC was the first in a long while, as noted by Dr Henry at the beginning of her livestreamed presentation to news media today.
No mention of hand sanitizers in PHO fall respiratory update (November 16, 2022)
Recommendation to use masks appropriately in respiratory season (November 16, 2022)
Hand washing & hand sanitizers (BC Centre for Disease Control)
COVID ARCHIVE (Island Social Trends)