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School IPM 2020 Conference

When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” – Dr. Lorraine Maxwell, Cornell University A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon. Includes the logos for NYSIPM, Cornell AgriTech, and USDA: NIFA

Another annual NYSIPM Conference is in the books and it was certainly different from what we imagined when we started planning last year. Covid-19 caused us to move the in-person gathering from April to a virtual conference in August. (Silver lining: it turns out virtual conferences are easier to get online than those we record with a video camera. You can now view the conference presentations from our YouTube channel.)  The virus also both supported and distracted from our main goal of discussing school pest issues that need community interventions to address.

As I discussed in my July post, Back to School – Humans Only!, Covid-19 is an excellent example of an issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the openings of schools through practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing whenever we leave our homes. As we looked at pest issues with similar community connections, examples included pests like bed bugs coming into schools on backpacks, but also wheelchairs and cockroaches coming in supplies and food packaging. Increasing communication and engaging collaborators that can help address these issues in the community preventing the introduction of pests into schools were brought up repeatedly. You can view that discussion here. Drs. Dina Fonseca and Paul Curtis also provided us with excellent examples of community members working together to manage mosquitoes and deer.

Besides influencing our conference, how else will Covid-19 impact schools from an IPM perspective? A few virus mitigation practices have direct impact on pests.

Reduced clutter

Photo of slide from conference: "Summary – NYC study Students’ perception of the school’s social learning environment is, in part, shaped by the physical quality of the school building. The social learning environment affects student attendance and subsequently academic achievement. Demographic factors play a role but school building quality remains an important contributing factor to the learning environment."

School building conditions matter in learning outcomes.

To decrease items that need to be regularly cleaned and sanitized, only required items are being kept in classrooms. The elimination of furniture and cushions, fewer books, less arts and crafts materials (or materials stored in easy to clean containers) will provide less space for pests to hide. We touched on this in the blog post, Bed Bugs in Schools – Prevention. And, as we learned in our keynote address, Healthy Environments for Learning by Dr. Lorraine Maxwell,  too much clutter can also lead to cognitive fatigue. While there is much influencing learning outcomes this year, we can hope that simplifying classrooms will help reduce pests and support learning.

Food in the classroom

There will be expanded food in classrooms as student travel within building is curtailed. Breakfast in the classroom has already proven to be challenging. This year lunch in the classroom, as well as teacher breaks, will increase the volume of food and food waste, the number of spills, and the amount of cleaning occurring throughout the school. On the School IPM Best Practices website, you can find information and resources on breakfast in the classroom.

Ventilation

To increase ventilation, windows and doors are being encouraged to be left open. Open doors leave opportunities for rodents and flying insects to enter buildings. Windows should have screens in place to exclude pests, but have screens been checked for holes or bent frames? Bobby Corrigan discussed rodent exclusion in his presentation, Identifying and Understanding the Rodent Vulnerable Areas (RVAs) of Schools: Essential for Sustainable IPM.

Sanitation

With IPM, we usually discuss cleaning more than sanitation, but Covid-19 has created a shift. (Note: this is unfortunate as this particular virus succumbs to soap and water.) We are not the experts on this issue, but have included a couple of blog posts to help provide some guidance:

The most important outcome of the conference is the message that school building matters and, indeed, as Dr. Maxwell concludes, “When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” And we all have a part to play.

Be sure to visit our School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next webpage for information on our speakers and links to the recordings of all the presentations.

For more information on school IPM, visit our Schools and Daycare Centers webpage.

Back to School – Humans Only!

A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon.Schools across the world are having conversations about safely sending teachers, students, and the rest of the school staff back for face-to-face education during a global pandemic. These are vitally important discussions and plans need to adapt to new information. And this focus on school health and safety also provides an ideal, if unanticipated, backdrop for our rescheduled annual conference – School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next.

Covid-19 is an excellent example of a community issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the health of the community through social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing. Our conference will focus on community-wide pest issues such as German cockroaches and bedbugs. There is simply no way for schools to prevent these insects from being reintroduced by students, school staff, and delivery trucks. How then, as a community, can we address these issues before they breach the school walls? And avoid the subsequent calls by some to close the building for pesticide applications?

photo of flat, wide, reddish bug on a finger tip

The penultimate hitchhiker, bed bugs need to be dealt with at a community level.

Please join us on the mornings of August 11 and 18 as we hear from community and agency leaders – and you! – about efforts to provide healthy learning and work environments. We welcome your experiences and ideas as we use this momentum to address school pest issues now and into the future.

For the full agenda, registration, and pesticide recertification credit information, please visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/resources/nys-ipm-conferences/school-ipm-2020-where-weve-been-and-whats-next/.

 

Pesticide Use Guidance During COVID-19

Our friends over at Cornell’s Pesticide Management Education Program (psep.cce.cornell.edu) has asked us to help spread information on disinfectants and sanitizers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in adverse health effects from the misuse of these products. There have also been several fraudulent products produced during this time that potential applicators should be made aware of. Please read and share the following:

Beware of fraudulent pesticide claims related to SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 coronavirus):

It has come to our attention that unregistered disinfectants claiming to protect against the virus are being marketed in the US. The efficacy and safety of these products is unsubstantiated and their use is illegal.

Regulators are taking steps to prevent such products from reaching the market, but it is your responsibility to use only those products designated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for use against SARS-CoV-2, listed at https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/covid19.pdf. Please check this list frequently, as content is subject to change.

Be safe disinfecting your home:

Disinfectants are pesticides and you can only use them as directed by the label. Therefore:

  • Never mix different disinfectant products together because doing so is dangerous. For example, mixing bleach with acids (such as vinegar) or ammonia releases life-threatening toxic fumes.
  • Never use disinfectants or disinfectant wipes on your skin. Instead, wash with soap and water; you can also use hand sanitizer on your hands.
  • Never wash fruits and vegetables with soap, sanitizers, or disinfectants as this could also result in poisoning. Wash produce only in clean water.

For more information on disinfecting your home and how to handle food during this crisis, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/disinfecting-your-home.pdf and  https://instituteforfoodsafety.cornell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/food-safety-recommendation-consumer/.

Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM School Best Management Practices Website

northeastipm.org/schools//

photo shows a screen shot of the front page of the school best management practices website

Our New Look!

Back in 2013, the Northeast School IPM Working Group (NESIWG) received a Partnership Grant from the Northeastern IPM Center to develop a Best Management Practices (BMP) website.

northeastipm.org/schools//

logo of the northeastern I P M center

Reducing pest and pesticide exposure is important for children, just as it is for district staff and visitors. But schools are especially challenging to manage because they include such varied and heavily used settings such as classrooms, cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, playing fields, playgrounds and gardens.

photo shows signs of damaged turf on a lacrosse field due to over use

The burden of use on an athletic field. (NYSIPM photo)

With the help of many contributors, the NESIWG both created and collected resources for school IPM. We wanted to help administrators, school boards, parents, teaching and support staff, athletic directors, groundskeepers, kitchen staff and custodians how a designated pest management plan can reduce both pests and the need for pesticides. The website was a success.

By 2018, NESIWG members saw the need to update old links and fill out gaps in the content. Eager to keep the website a useful and comprehensive resource, the working group applied for and received a NEIPM Communications grant. Again using focus groups, the following changes were made:

  • a reorganization of the pest species list,
  • additional information on relevant pesticide use regulations in all Northeastern states,
  • grouping resources by stakeholder roles,
  • the addition of two new pages: Breakfast in the Classroom and Playgrounds

Additionally, the recent grant included an update of the working group’s homepage, a new ranking of regional school IPM priorities, a current membership list and an index of school IPM contacts in the Northeast.

graphic shows front of new brochure announcing the changes in the school best management practices website

Front (Outside) of Brochure

Now, with changes soon to be complete, the NESIWG welcomes your visits and assistance in sharing this helpful site. After all, finding and using the website is key!

Back of new brochure advertising the changes to the Best management practices for schools website

Back (Inside) of Brochure

PLEASE CONSIDER DOWNLOADING OUR BROCHURE, printing a few and sharing them.  OR SHARE THIS LINK.

northeastipm.org/schools//

Protect Your Health When Cleaning Up After Mice

Worldwide, rodents carry approximately ten diseases, most of which we’ve never heard of. Centuries ago, ‘the Plague’ spread via flea bites from infected rats. Today, most diseases spread by direct contact with a rodent or–more likely–it’s excrement (saliva, urine, or feces).

While you may not plan to touch a mouse or its droppings, you may put yourself at risk by simply inhaling microscopic particles that are released into the air when you:

  • remove a dead mouse or its trap
  • sweep or vacuum to remove nesting materials or droppings.

Deer mouse and white-footed mouse usually live outdoors but enter homes to forage for food.

Hantavirus, when dissipated in the air (microscopic virus clings to particles), stays alive after rodent activity. In fact, it may be viable up to fourteen days, but according the the CDC, it is more likely three to four.

How do you know?

It is difficult to determine just how old these signs of activity are, so always take precautions with your health and those around you.

No one wants to see this work ahead of them, but do you know how to protect your health while cleaning up?

Here’s the quick list of what to do to protect yourself:

  1. We repeat: ALWAYS TAKE PRECAUTIONS!
  2. Use snap traps to monitor current activity.
  3. Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning.
  4. SPRAY the urine, droppings, nest materials or carcasses with a disinfectant. The CDC recommends 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution) or a commercial disinfectant. SPRAY ENOUGH TO COMPLETELY MOISTEN THE ITEMS AND AREA.
  5. Use paper towels, and place everything in the garbage. (Double bagging with grocery bags can be helpful. Always double bag dead rodents.)
  6. After all signs of activity are removed, disinfect the area and any thing that might have been contaminated. MOP floors and DISINFECT counters with commercial disinfectant or 10% bleach solution. Toss out gloves that can’t be disinfected.
  7. Steam clean or shampoo upholstered furniture and hot-water wash any bedding, towels or clothing that may have come in contact with rodents. MOISTENING EVERYTHING IN YOUR CLEAN-UP AREA WILL SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AIRBORNE VIRUS TO ENTER YOUR LUNGS.
  8. When a significant clean-up job comes along, a cheap dust mask will not do the trick. Invest in a proper filtered safety mask. It’s worth the cost!

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are two extremely dangerous conditions you do not want to encounter. These diseases do not affect the rodents that carry (vector) them.

Even without the threat of disease, clean up work often causes breathing problems for those in and around the area. Don’t forget that cockroaches and their excrement and shed skins are also a main cause of childhood asthma.

Make proper clean-up procedures part of your IPM plan.