NOTE: This article was originally published March 13th, 2020, last updated July 14th, 2020.
While we want to make sure this advice is current, it is not definitive. We want to recognize the limitations of advice during a pandemic where information is updated by experts daily and strongly urge you to check resources like the CDC and WHO for the most up-to-date information about safety procedures and best practices.
We’ve compiled some critical information and tips for float centers to keep in mind during the Coronavirus outbreak:
- Coronavirus is not water-borne. Standard filtration and disinfection in your float solution should be sufficient.
- Coronavirus seems to be primarily spread through droplets in the air. Infected people who present symptoms can spread these through coughing and sneezing, but asymptomatic people can spread the virus great distances just through talking. It’s not currently known how long the virus stays in the air, but enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces have an increased risk of transmission. Employees should wait at least 20 minutes before entering float rooms vacated by customers.
- Surfaces don’t seem to be the primary mode of transmission, but are still a risk factor. Increase disinfection of the interior and exterior of the tank, especially where customers are likely to touch.
Hard Surface Disinfection
- (Re)Familiarize yourself with hard surface disinfection and kill times.
- Use EPA recommended and registered disinfectants on all hard surfaces.
- Stress to your staff the importance of properly disinfecting all items and surfaces that floaters are likely to touch, both in the rooms and out.
- Frequently disinfect chairs, doorknobs, check-in counters, and all solid surfaces where someone might place their hand.
- Consider storing objects that floaters typically touch that aren’t easy to disinfect (float journals, books, toys, etc.).Staff and Customers
Staff and Customers
- All staff should wear masks at all times. All customers should wear masks anytime they’re not alone in the float room. Even cloth masks can help reduce the spread of transmission significantly.
- Brief your staff on what we know, and make sure they feel comfortable answering any customer questions.
- Make sure your staff is washing their hands diligently and not touching their faces.
- Have everyone maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others.
- Make sure staff take sick leave and stay home if they think they’re feeling ill.
- Let customers know that they won’t be charged for canceling floats, even last minute, if they’re not feeling well. Take steps to prevent customers who have symptoms, especially a cough or fever, into your center.
- Put a page on your website informing your customers of your increased cleaning and health policies, and link to it from your scheduling page and emails.
With all of this said, we aren’t microbiologists and information about the pandemic is changing daily. So, back in March we reached out to Dr. Roy Vore for comment.
If you’re not familiar with him, Dr. Vore is a microbiologist and expert on water sanitation; he’s one of the leading experts on outbreaks in shared water facilities (pools, hot tubs, etc), and fortunately for our industry, he’s taken a particular interest in float tanks.
Dr. Vore has had been discussing this issue with pools and spas, so making a statement for float centers wasn’t too far out of his way.
The first thing we learned from talking to Dr. Vore was that the actual name for this virus is SARS-CoV-2. It’s similar to the flu both in how it spreads and what it’s susceptible to. This is what he had to say (see if you can avoid hearing it in his voice):
“This is an enveloped virus. The concentration of salt used will provide a reasonable inactivation, but is not likely to be complete. But this virus is both spread by contact and inhalation of airborne droplets; it is not water-borne. As such, the water is not the medium of transmission.”
It’s been known for years that high concentrations of magnesium sulfate in a water solution can actually stop some viruses and bacteria from spreading that would otherwise thrive in water. As we know, this isn’t sufficient disinfectant for all pathogens, but it does impact our risk factors. Dr. Vore actually did a big talk about this at the 2018 Float Conference.
The nature of our business also means we just don’t have large groups of people interacting with each other. This doesn’t mean we’re off the hook, though.
This virus has a long incubation period, which means that it can last longer on surfaces. So the real danger of this epidemic for a float center is all the stuff that your customers interact with. As Dr. Vore puts it:
“All float centers should focus on disinfection of hard surfaces including chairs, doorknobs, check-in counters, and all solid surfaces where someone might place their hand.”
Back at the beginning of March, Art of the Float recently released an interview with Jason MacDonald, a health regulator in Alberta, Canada. It’s a good listen, although obviously our understanding of the pandemic has shifted and grown since then.
At the very least, hopefully the fact that we’re not a high-risk industry can be something float centers can take some comfort in and emphasize to the public. Be patient, be mindful, and adjust your plans to the environment as new information comes out and the situation develops. And don’t forget to take tank time for yourself to float away some stress.
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