Cities having to make choices about where to allocate disinfectant stock, leaving some high-touch public surfaces unsanitized

Officials say they are prioritizing the use of disinfectants and sanitizers for surfaces within city facilities including door handles and countertops, while also citing logistical issues with keeping frequently-touched public surfaces sanitized.

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As COVID-19 business shutdowns continue, more Johnson County residents are finding themselves enjoying the outdoors. The increase in outdoor activity could mean an uptick in usage of high-touch areas like crosswalk buttons and public benches.

But these surfaces are not being sanitized by many Shawnee Mission area cities for a myriad of reasons. Officials say they are prioritizing the use of disinfectants and sanitizers for surfaces within city facilities including door handles and countertops, while also citing logistical issues with keeping frequently-touched public surfaces sanitized.

Barbara Mitchell, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment public information officer, said, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public should avoid touching high-touch points, frequently wash their hands and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily — if at all possible — to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mitchell also noted the CDC does not have direct data on how weather-related temperatures could impact the lifespan of the novel coronavirus.

With limited public access to disinfectant and sanitizing products, most northeast Johnson County cities say their inventories remain normal — but they’re working to figure out how to best utilize the supply.

Here’s how some northeast Johnson County cities are prioritizing their disinfectant and sanitizer inventories.

Overland Park

Communications Manager Sean Reilly said the city’s 300+ benches and picnic tables, and 2,100+ pedestrian push buttons are not being sanitized as they would remain clean only until someone pushed or used it. City staff and the city’s contract cleaning crew wipe down common surface areas, though most facilities have restricted access to the public and most business is being done online.

As for Overland Park’s stock of disinfectant and sanitizer products, Reilly said the “supply chain for both remains strong and responsive,” and that there are “adequate amounts of each on hand.”

Lenexa

Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Logan Wagler said Lenexa is not sanitizing any surfaces or items, including crosswalk buttons and benches, except for those located at its facilities. There are too many benches, buttons and other outdoor surfaces for the city to frequently sanitize these surfaces, he said.

Lenexa has ramped up sanitation of all surfaces within facilities including all door handles and buttons, Wagler said.

Although Lenexa currently has “normal stock levels” of disinfectants and sanitizers, it’s taking measures to preserve that stock, he said.

“This is a huge challenge right now,” Wagler said. “We are working closely with our suppliers and exploring other options to procure the appropriate stock of these products.”

Shawnee

Communications Manager Julie Breithaupt said the city does not have the staffing needed to monitor each crosswalk button and public bench, and therefore is not sanitizing these items. Although most are shut down, she said all of Shawnee’s buildings are fogged weekly. The city is “constantly monitoring and re-ordering” sanitizer and disinfectant products as necessary, she said.

Other safety measures include providing washable face masks to employees and touchless hand sanitizer dispenser stations throughout the city’s buildings.

Roeland Park

City Administrator Keith Moody said the city is not actively sanitizing items like crosswalk buttons or benches as it “does not have an abundance of disinfectants on hand to sanitize every high-touch point surface.” The city has a limited supply of disinfectants and sanitizers, and online orders are on backorder due to the high demand, he said.

The resources the city does have are being distributed to city staff to sanitize areas — such as fleet vehicles, staff work stations, eating areas, restrooms and door handles — within city buildings, Moody said. Additionally, the public works department has mixed up bleach water to clean surfaces in an effort to preserve its short supply, he said.

Roeland Park is encouraging individuals to follow CDC guidelines and wash their hands after touching high-touch point items.

Mission

Assistant to the City Administrator Emily Randel said staff is not wiping down crosswalk buttons or benches at this point, but is instead targeting work areas and equipment with regular sanitizing. Additionally, the closure of playgrounds during COVID-19 was aimed at reducing contamination on high-touch point areas, she said.

The city ordered more sanitizing wipes, which are readily available in all its buildings, as well as several more hand sanitizer dispensers in key areas, Randel said. There are fewer employees working in the buildings, which has helped stretch the use of the city’s supplies.

Merriam

Communications and Public Engagement Manager Jenna Gant said the city isn’t currently sanitizing items like crosswalk buttons and benches. Merriam has “a good inventory” of disinfectants, sanitizers and personal protective equipment, and is working with suppliers to ensure it maintains that inventory, Gant said.