Trash Bags Can Keep Our Schools Safe & Open During COVID-19

Posted by Allen Czermak on

You’ve been using plenty of plastic garbage bags and changing them often, lots of plastic food storage bags of different sizes, for your food to keep sterile, and loads of plastic cutlery, plates and tablecloths when you must be with other families. These routines have reduced the chances of COVID-19 transmission from person to person. In fact, nursing homes are claiming a reduction in routine infections since implementing the more stringent sterilization, mask and glove wearing regulations. Now that the schools are beginning to open, how are they going to ensure the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 infections? 

There are variations of opinions on the correct way to reduce and eliminate this deadly disease in schools and other large social institutions. Some countries such as Sweden have never gone into full lock-down claiming it is better for people to be exposed and develop herd immunity.

In our local school districts of New York and New Jersey a more moderate approach is being set into place. Each institution will have a unique way of keeping their students safe and keeping schools safe, clean, and open. Here are some variations of protection for students. 

  • Mask wearing is required in the hallways and auditoriums however, in some schools where there is structured social distancing the mask can be removed in class. 
  • For those classrooms that do have mandatory mask wearing, there are mask breaks, which means that the children can take off their mask for a short time at regular intervals. Intervals are varied from school to school, some between every half hour and every hour as needed. 
  • Many schools have constructed clear plastic barriers or bubbles between each student’s desk to make it virtually impossible to have near social contact with each other. These plastic bubbles can either be made with hard plastic, sometimes custom made or even soft and strong plastic sheeting. Desk guards for student desks are simple to assemble. They are usually made of three plastic panels with built in notches made of Velcro for easy (hopefully temporary) adherence to the student’s desks. 
  • Softer plastic clear tarps are also a possible less expensive alternative when used with sturdy frames. These soft sheeting’s are framed in sturdy plastic or wood and for preschoolers decorated in cute designs that are age appropriate. 
  • Decorative frames for preschoolers will make the transition of sneeze guards easier to accept and utilize. 

Believe it or not there are still some states that do not have any decisive planning and policies for the opening of schools. For instance, South Dakota teachers in public schools are mostly on their own for the screening and social distances methods in their classrooms. Thousands of teachers in South Dakota are using their own money and time to purchase and install protective barriers for their students since there is not yet any statewide policy in place. 

Each school district in South Dakota, must decide on their own how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms. Even if the district managers provide direction for how to social distance the students and mask wearing, they have offered little direction about social distance boundaries. 

It is most likely that in the South Dakota schools there will be sneeze guards which may be handmade rather than purchased. Some teachers have been spending their own cash to buy plastic film or Plexiglas materials which will be held up by PVC pipes or wooden dowels. 

How Are Trash Bags Keeping Children Safe in Schools? 

There is nothing worse than a smelly, dirty, and unsanitary trash can prior to COVID-19 times, and now it is more crucial than ever to keep our trash cans clean and sanitary for the safety of our children. What can be done to lessen the transmission of this terrible virus when children are naturally flippant when it comes to garbage disposal? We must be protective not only of the children and staff of our schools, but our devoted sanitation teams as well. 

  1. All trash must be tightly secured in heavy duty trash bags. Using the strongest trash bags will assure that the bags will not rip in transport to the garbage trucks. Even better would be to double bag the trash bags at the time of emptying the classroom garbage. 
  1. While each classroom must be disinfected at least once a day according to WHO, janitors must be even more careful with sanitizing the trash cans themselves. Either utilize trash bags manufactured with Clorox germ killer or if you have a large supply of heavy duty trash bags that you like or there is a certain company that supplies these bags to you, you can sanitize the trash cans in your school fairly simply. A working solution for disinfecting trash cans is a solution of sodium hypochlorite at 0.5% (equivalent 5000 ppm). 
  1. Trash cans should be kept near open windows and when possible, air conditioners should be circulating air near them. There are also products that implement ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVG). These products come in different sizes and types ranging from handheld to mobile units to larger ones. A germicidal mobile cart is specifically structured to sterilize both small and larger spaces efficiently. It is a four wheel cart which has an arm which can be positioned exactly where needed with a built in timer to illustrate how long to keep it beaming on the trash can or any other item that needs disinfecting. There is also a remote-control model to prevent the person from touching the unsanitary can. It is being used safely in laboratories and hospitals as well as in places of education and has been proven efficacious in COVID-19 sterilization. 
  1. There is also a handheld model which can be placed conveniently on the janitor’s cart to use in conjunction with trash bag removal. This type of portable UVC Germicidal Wand can eliminate up to 99.9% of all viruses, bacteria and germs from contaminated surfaces. Although we are writing about schools particularly, this Germicidal Wand priced at a little over one hundred dollars, is priceless for personal use as well. Imagine not having to worry when you take your family on vacation and are concerned that the motel or rented vehicle is contaminated. You just wave this “magic” wand and the danger is removed. According to the CDC, all UV products can inactivate many microorganisms and the UVC system is the most efficient. 
  1. As I was being educated about the subject of keeping our school safe and open during the COVID-19 pandemic I thought to myself, why can’t there be such a thing as a disposable trash can? We already have all types of disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal disposable items from plates to plastic tablecloths. I googled disposable trash cans and sure enough two popular websites turned up positive, Walmart and ULINE. 

The more expensive one was on ULINE for under ten dollars. This trash can is made from sturdy cardboard and it can be disposed of after a single use or can be used more than once if the garbage is the dry type. 

Walmart has an even more economical version which sells for a little more than two dollars apiece. It comes in lively patterns which can be varied to different classroom age groups. Think how excited a preschooler would be to see a lighthearted pattern on the trash can when he or she walks into class on the first day of school. These trash cans would surely lift a child’s spirit coming from home where all he or she hears is talk of illness. Each of these trash cans come with their own trash bag and these disposable cans are made from fifty percent recycled materials. 

Our children have suffered and are still suffering from this terrible time in history. Along with COVID-19 has come violence and killing. Our educators have a tough job before them. Just like parents are working hard in creating an atmosphere that is safe yet secure so must the teachers and administrators do likewise. The CDC and other government agencies have specific instructions laid out for the sanitary practices in our schools. If the teachers come in confident and relaxed this will affect the students in a positive manner. My sister in law is the principal of the preschool department in a private school in Deal, New Jersey. She showed me a video that was produced and sent out to the entire parent body prior to the school opening. The entire staff starred in this film. The film takes you on a tour of the entire school, including the classrooms, offices, kitchen, etc. Each person, wearing a mask waves and greets the students for the new term. This hopefully will remove the stress and fear of young children awaiting the first day of school. The children now have a picture of what the school and staff will look like wearing masks. 

Working together let us get started on a new and hopefully improved life. Yes, we mourn the lives we once had, however, there is a master plan for us all. Meanwhile let us use our disposables especially our trash bags to create a safer and more pleasant environment. At least we are passed using trash bags as PPE equipment for hospital nursing staff. If we look back to those terrifying days, we will already feel better that our prayers are beginning to be answered.

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