EVS on the Frontlines of COVID-19

March 11, 2021
Brian Cornelius, Environmental Services Specialist

Mercy Regional Medical Center's Environmental Services (EVS) team has always played an extremely important role in keeping our patients and caregivers safe. Without the expertise of this team, clinical staff would be unable to safely care for our patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role of health care EVS teams, their front-line responsibilities for infection prevention, and the important place they hold on the patient care team. Under extreme circumstances, our EVS team has demonstrated resilience, agility and professionalism.

Brian Cornelius, Environmental Services Specialist, has worked nights at Mercy Regional Medical Center for nearly six years. During his 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, Brian dedicates his time to cleaning Mercy’s Emergency Department (ED).

Prior to the coronavirus, it would take Brian up to 15 minutes to sanitize and clean one of the ED’s small rooms. Now, to complete the thorough, intensive cleaning needed to eradicate coronavirus and ensure the room is safe for the next patient can take up to 40 minutes. (Brian has also assisted in cleaning the COVID-19 inpatient rooms, which are much larger, and can take up to 1 ½ hours to complete.)

“A lot of time and effort goes into what we do,” Brian explained. “We give 110% here at Mercy. By utilizing the Moonbeam (more on this technology later), our extensive training and experience, we go above and beyond.”

During some of Mercy Regional Medical Center’s largest surges of COVID-19 patients, Brian was completing these deep cleans for up to five rooms a night.

“I was exhausted,” Brian explained. “It’s been very stressful, but I keep focused on cleaning the very best I can.”

“I’m thankful for my team, especially Brad Hatten, who have been my back up,” Brian added.

Mercy Regional Medical Center’s EVS team also added an innovative tool to help combat the spread of germs – the Moonbeam. This powerful, portable technology uses UVC light to quickly and broadly disinfect rooms in as little as three minutes. After completing his normal cleaning process (working in a circular pattern, cleaning every surface from top to bottom and moving and cleaning all the room’s furniture), Brian turns on the Moonbeam. (Due to the beam’s heavy ultra-violet light, associates are advised to leave the room during the Moonbeam’s cleaning process.)

“The Moonbeam provides that extra level of security to make sure everything is clean,” Brian said.

When the first COVID-19 patients were treated at Mercy Regional Medical Center, little was known about the virus. At the start of the pandemic, all Mercy Regional Medical Center caregivers took extra precautions to ensure the safety of themselves, each other, patients and the community. During those first weeks, Brian remembers wearing a “bunny suit” (medical coveralls) and a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) when cleaning rooms recently vacated by a COVID-19 positive patient or a patient awaiting COVID-19 test results.

“We didn’t know what it was or how bad it was,” Brian explained

Before Brian would leave for home, he would shower as an added precaution to protect his wife and young child at home.

“I worried about giving the coronavirus to my family,” Brian said. “So, as exhausted as I was at the end of a shift, I would take a shower.”

As our knowledge of the virus has continued to evolve, the level of recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has lessened. One year later, when Brian cleans COVID-19 rooms, he wears a N95 mask, protective eyewear, a gown, and two pairs of gloves. Brian also has received his COVID-19 vaccinations which have provided him with a reassurance that he won’t bring the virus home with him.

“With the vaccine, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Brian stated.