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SPECIAL REPORT: Cleaning COVID at St. Luke’s Hospital

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DULUTH, MN-- In this new age of cleaning and disinfecting everything, nowhere is it more important than in hospitals.

There, it's an art form, because it has to be. Especially after a COVID-19 positive patient has been treated.

St. Luke's in Duluth gave KBJR 6 an inside look at how they're taking on the tough task to make sure the extremely contagious virus isn't spread within their walls.

Room 551 room on the fifth floor of St. Luke's hospital looks like any other, But a deadly virus lives on these surfaces.

"It's what we don't see that's most dangerous to us," said Jeffrey Conner, Manager of Hospitality Services at St. Luke's.

Physically preparing to enter a room where a COVID-19 patient has resided takes extraordinary measures.

Conner said, "Staff needs face shields, gloves, masks."

St. Luke's hospitality services are in charge of making sure each room is as clean as can be.

"Wanting to make sure we're taking all the extra measures and precautions need to make sure we're keeping ourselves and our patients safe," said Conner.

Housekeeping attendants Mary Ellias and Elizabeth Lawal suit up each day and take on the risky task of disinfecting every inch of these rooms.

"We just come together. I'll do all the side stuff, she does the bed," said Ellias.

Wiping down Each piece of equipment that may have been exposed. That includes walls, doorknobs, table trays, the entire bed, and hospital equipment.

Using bleach-based cleaners, virus-killing chemicals, and a UV light.

"We know that it's proven disinfecting technology," said Conner.
The UV light is set on a timer while the staff clears the room. The light, not safe for human contact.

Conner said, "The intensity of that UVC light reconfigures or reworks the DNA in a virus, bacteria or spore such as C-Diff, and it renders it incapable of reproducing."

He said it's been challenging adjusting hospital operations because the experience is new. He said, "In my entire time at St. Luke's, I've never seen anything like what we're going through right now."

The hospital has redirected the fifth floor of the 5E (East) ICU building which was once a surgical wing, to care for COVID positive patients.

"This unit would be used for people that aren't sick enough to be in ICU but are definitely sick enough to be hospitalized, said Conner.

Leaving the floor open, preparing for a worst-case scenario. He said, "on a regular day, we expect to have around 200 patients. We are ready for a surge that could ramp up to 600 patients."

When the room is secure and clean, fresh linens are placed on the bed, and the staff carefully strip their used PPE.

Connor stressing the importance of why they clean so meticulously.

He said, "We don't have an immunity to the COVID-19 virus so that's what makes it so dangerous and so serious."

The entire room cleaning process was just a demonstration. At the time, that room had no traces of COVID-19.

It's also worth noting Essentia Health has similar cleaning protocols in place.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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