SPECIAL REPORT Donaldson pointed out that the CDC has already stated

that the new coronavirus will die off by itself after one week, so she advised that car seats and other equip- ment be removed from service for that long after one use, if possible. She suggested that student transporters should at least rotate car seats and safety vests, if there is enough inventory. The entire issue has become a major discussion point

for the Student Transportation Aligned for the Return to School (STARTS) Task Force, as it prepares actionable best practices for school districts and bus companies to implement into their operations. A report with recom- mendations is expected this month. Among suppliers concerned with the rise in use of dis-

infectants is IMMI, which manufactures the SafeGuard brand of school bus seats and seatbelts. “[I]nformation that is being provided to the industry is focused on con- ventional knowledge that applies to the school bus seat vinyl itself, without even always providing all the caveats and precautions that must be considered when going above the fully accepted use of a mild soap-and-warm- water solution wiped on, then wiped and rinsed off with pure warm water, and then dried,” said Charles Vits, market development manager for SafeGuard. He pointed out that cleaning requirements for belt systems differ from seats and other harder surfaces. “We know that some of these common recommendations for disinfecting can ultimately result in field failures to the restraint system,” he said. Vits added that the company currently only recom- mends buckles be cleaned with water, because plastic components inside can become damaged by chemical interactions, which can then lead to occupant restraint failure. He noted, however, that IMMI is currently re- searching the potential development of “an acceptable solution” to disinfecting its products. A spokeswoman for GOJO Industries, meanwhile, said that without knowing the composition details of the seatbelts from the manufacturer, the company can’t specifically comment on if its Purell Surface Spray would break down the internal plastic materials. But the company has tested “an extensive amount” of plastics that are used in moldable components, said Kelly Ward- Smith, GOJO’s senior manager of public relations. These includes plastics like polyester, nylon, polypropylene, PVC, Polyacrylics, ABS, and more. “All testing of these specific plastics have shown acceptable compatibility with Purell Surface Spray,” she said. “The plastic materials used as internal and external components of seatbelts, including the strap material, are likely among those which we have successfully tested.” To avoid rusting uncoated steel, which could be part of

the internal components of a seatbelt buckle, Ward-Smith advised spraying surface disinfectant on a paper towel and then wiping the buckle rather than spraying it directly.

18 School Transportation News • JULY 2020 While also advising only soap and water, another

supplier warned that too much and in the wrong area could be a costly mistake. “Hosing down a bus or using strong chemicals can affect the product or make the floor buckle up and create product failure,” commented Maritza Valentin, a regional sales manager with wheel- chair securement manufacturer AMF-Bruns of America. She also recommended to make sure to thoroughly dry surfaces afterward. “Wheelchair lift areas are never to be hosed [down]

because the water will sit and create issues on the floor, and the lifts will start to experience failure,” added Val- entin, who has 25 years of experience in special needs transportation. “Soaking the floor with a mop can create the same concerns with the floor. A lot of school dis- tricts are still running over 10-year-old buses, so some of these buses can be affected [based] on how you clean the inside, especially when it comes to the floor.” Ken Hedgecock, the national sales manager for the

United Safety & Survivability Corporation (USSC), said cleaning school buses should always start with soap and water. But they are no longer enough. And as he pointed out, school bus manufacturer manuals address how to clean vehicles but not how often. The sticking point, so to speak, is what student transporters do after cleaning to ensure that they kill as many bacteria as possible and continue killing them. AEGIS is another EPA-approved solution to combat vi- ruses that has been used for years in the transit industry as well as in medical facilities and government buildings. Also registered by Health Canada, it is now distributed by USSC for school bus application to treat porous and non-porous surfaces with a bonding anti-microbial agent. An evaluation published in February states that it electrostatically and physically interrupts the bacterial or viral cell membrane and prevents its ability to survive on a protected surface. Hedgecock explained that it “actively attacks” bacteria, viruses and fungi for up to a year with only one application. “It penetrates the cell membrane of the microbe and

kills it. Once applied, it better aids cleaning and disin- fecting process,” he shared, adding that future cleaning won’t remove it, until the next application a year later.

Fighting Viruses in the Air While the CDC and World Health Organization said the

novel coronavirus is primarily spread by droplets from someone who is coughing, sneezing or even talking within a few feet away, anecdotal evidence indicates that the SARS-CoV-2 could also be transmissible through particles in the air, according to a May article in Scientific American. USSC is also working on introducing another solution used in the transit industry to school buses. CDC and state guidance on reopening schools mention the importance

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