San Diego Business Journal

Restarting the San Diego economy promises to be a gigantic task, whether it is getting workers back into vacant offices, or it is welcoming patrons back inside long-closed retail stores.

Part of that big job will be cleaning up after the hiatus and keeping areas clean.

That job will fall to people such as Keith Olmo, president and CEO of Jan-Pro of San Diego, which oversees 115 independent franchisee janitors serving the area. Olmo reported that 30% of his clients shut down their businesses during the pandemic.

A person going back into the workplace needs to contact his or her property manager and janitorial firm as soon as possible, said Steve Selock, vice president of the Southern California janitorial division at Able Services. The janitorial service should get to the task of cleaning promptly. A deep cleaning will likely be required for a business set to re-open.

There will also be the task of disinfecting the premises if the business is exposed to COVID-19, but that is doable, Olmo said.

Armed With Information

Stay informed, Selock said. “The worst thing you can do is be disorganized and running behind the eight ball.”

A business owner can turn to many resources for help, including national, state and local health authorities. Private companies can help too. Jan-Pro is distributing a detailed checklist for getting properties in shape, and encouraging healthy habits. The checklist is available by contacting the San Diego office. It includes tips such as running the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and running enough water down all drains to refresh the liquid in the traps.

The San Diego Business Journal turned to several sources to collect tips for cleaning and reopening. One of the most frequent suggestions is to clean frequently touched surfaces and keep them clean.

Getting It Right

ABM, the publicly traded facilities services business, counsels using the right disinfectants, and using them in the right way. A business person probably wants to use EPA-registered disinfectants that have been qualified for use against COVID-19, rather than all-purpose cleaners.

The company also counsels paying attention to a building’s traffic patterns, and increasing the frequency of cleanings accordingly.

Janitorial companies can offer specialized cleaning technologies. Jan-Pro has an electrostatic cleaning device that can reportedly sanitize not just the surface facing the device but all surfaces of an object, such as chair legs. “It has this wraparound effect,” Olmo said.

Jan-Pro also uses color-coded microfiber cloths to clean surfaces. A red cloth, for example, stays in the restroom; green cloths are for chemicals and yellow cloths are for dry dusting.

The Employee Dimension

Employee comfort is paramount, but there might not be a consistent idea of clean among co-workers. “Everyone’s perception of clean or disinfected is different,” said Selock.

Olmo said employees are a key part of the solution. A business can emphasize personal hygiene, such as the need to wash hands often. Employees can also be responsible for keeping their own areas clean, leaving common areas such as restrooms to the janitorial crew.

Microwave ovens, coffee machines, whiteboard markers, TV remotes and shared computer keyboards and mice should be kept clean. A business person should be aware that they could harbor germs, and might encourage employees to wipe or disinfect them before or after each use. It’s good to have sanitary wipes and disinfectant available, he said.

Getting Ready for Guests

Jeff Rossman, president of the San Diego County chapter of the California Restaurant Association, noted that restaurants will be safe, since they are regulated by the county environmental health department, the authorities that distribute the so-called “A cards.”

“They are the safest places to be in our opinion,” said Rossman. “Always have been, always will be.”

He spoke of situations where each seat in the restaurant will have to be sanitized. More than one restaurant owner said capacity will be reduced, with certain booths closed and some seating areas separated by Plexiglas or even shower curtains. The experience will definitely be different than before, said Rossman, who runs Terra American Bistro and Bunz: A Burger Joint.

A Time Like No Other

Janitorial executives have been putting in 15- to 19-hour days, Selock said. He noted that his birthday was March 17. That was the day the county closed bars, nightclubs and on-premises dining, and shortly before Gov. Gavin Newsom gave his stay at home order). He the significance of the day passed him by and he did not notice he’d missed his birthday until three days afterward.

Selock’s last piece of advice is like his first: remember that COVID-19 is a new phenomenon, so no one is a complete expert. It pays to stay informed, he said.

San Diego has some hard work ahead, Olmo said, but he is optimistic.

The situation is everywhere, he said. “You’re not on your own.”