Katie Nixon Nashville Tennessean

Cleaning initiative, “Project Protection” has been enacted by local commercial cleaning and janitorial services, Stratus Building Solutions of Nashville, as kids returned to in-person learning in schools, the Delta variant continues to spread and pediatric hospitalizations spike.

To date, more than 60,000 children have been admitted with COVID-19 since Aug. 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker. 254 of those admissions occurred between Sept. 22-28.

Shortly after January, Stratus Building Solutions began prepping school staff for new cleaning practices and introduced the project following the schools’ July 4th holiday break.

“With coronavirus up and down, surges here and there, and then with the prevalence of the Delta (variant), we just felt like we needed a program to kind of reenergize the market and remind everyone that we’re still in a pandemic, especially with school starting up,” Stratus Building Solutions Brand Compliance Manager Eric Burcham said.

“The closer we got to school starting, we felt like we needed to start a program to really give school staff and parents some piece of mind.”

Most of their clients consist of schools and medical facilities, Burcham said.

The Goddard School of Gallatin and other Nashville-based schools including Explore! Community School are currently utilizing cleaning practices under the company’s “Project Protection”.

Currently using soap and water and bleach and water cleaning solutions, The Goddard School of Gallatin works to rid classrooms of the Delta variant by implementing a daily sanitization system.

“In our classrooms throughout the day our teachers are doing set cleanings throughout the day of all of our toys – we have a sanitization system in all of our classrooms from infant all the way up to our junior Kindergarten class,” The Goddard School Gallatin On-Site Franchise Owner Kara Brumley said.

“We also have the (Stratus Building Solutions) come in at night and they do a more thorough, deeper cleaning such as mopping the floors with hospital grade cleaners, cleaning down the countertops in the kitchen… and just making sure that everything that we cannot get throughout the day is cleaned with their higher grade cleaners.”

Adapting to the Delta variant

The biggest change the cleaning company has noticed over the last four or five months has been their cleaning process that continues to adapt alongside the global pandemic.

“Last summer and through the winter, the popular cleaning process was the electrostatic spraying or fogging, things like that,” Burcham said.

“But once the vaccination became prevalent and COVID numbers started to level off… the CDC comes out with their recommendation to do more hand-cleaning or hand-washing and less COVID-spraying.”

And though the disinfectant chemicals the company uses have not been changed, new practices have been enacted or recommended to clients.

“We feel that the disinfectant that we use is just as effective against (the delta variant),” he said.

“What we would recommend is no touch dispensers such as hand sanitizing stations where you don’t have to touch a pump handle and where resources are available we encourage customers to put in no touch faucets, no touch paper towel dispensers, just less touch points through the facility.”

The company prefers to clean by hand in the fight against the Delta variant and encourages its customers to put up more signage, reminding their staff, students, parents and clients to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer more frequently, Burcham said.

Outbreaks are down

Between Aug. 29, 2021 and Sep. 4, 2021, there has been a 33.1% decrease in children admitted with COVID-19, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

And since adopting these new cleaning practices, Stratus Building Solutions’ clients have reported fewer outbreaks and quarantines due to COVID-19 and the delta variant.

“We have customers that didn’t really change their practices through the prevalence of the delta (variant) and they’re still seeing a high level of cases, whereas the schools that implemented these processes and practices - they have seen lower outbreaks.”

Implementing outside pickup and drop-off for parents is one way The Goddard School of Gallatin has been tackling the Delta variant in combination with updated cleaning practices.

“We found out that ever since starting the outside drop-off process that we are actually bringing in less germs as far as other illnesses,” Brumley said. “We do think that it’s even helped prevent strep throat coming into the building just the common cold as well by keeping our families outside at drop-off.”

All staff continue to wear masks regardless of vaccination status as well.

Moving forward, Stratus Building Solutions hopes to interrupt the domino effect of illness with “Project Protection”. By keeping school administrators and students healthy and in schools, parents and their work environments will remain healthy as well.

“We want to stay consistent, stay focused, keep kids safe and keep staff safe,” Burcham said.

“That seems to be one of the biggest issues, when teachers and support staff are sick and out of schools they have to close down because substitutes are not available and so primarily our focus is of course to keep students, staff and parents (safe).”