As the murmurs grew into widespread panic and each state recorded its first coronavirus cases, Jason Lee’s phone began ringing.
The CEO of Lee Building Maintenance, a commercial cleaning company in Frederick, Maryland that employs over 100 people, was asked to give his professional opinion about the best products to use and the length of time his clients should go between each cleaning.
Some companies immediately hired Lee and his crew for a few “terminal” cleanings after employees exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus – a lengthy process that entails assessing the site, spraying several layers of disinfectant and cleaners throughout and documenting each step of the process.
On the calls, Lee, 44, takes his time reassuring his customers that yes, their offices were disinfected on their last cleaning, and no, they should not spend extra money on additional cleanings outside of their weekly schedules.
Lee says the best way to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak is for everyone to pitch in to keep office spaces as clean as possible. He also advises homeowners and renters to create a COVID-19 safety plan for their home, similar to a fire escape plan, where families would review, for example, how members enter the home to ensure there are no breaches in safety protocol.
“The average person’s got to step up and do a little more. It helps everyone,” Lee said, explaining that as a business owner, he would never use the coronavirus calamity as a way to price gouge or upsell customers on things they can do themselves. “I’m compassionate. We’re already in a time where it’s high unemployment. I’m not going to try to take advantage of this situation.”
Lee and his wife, April, president of Lee Building Maintenance, say what they want their clinical, corporate, nonprofit and school clients, and others, to do right now is to remain calm.
“Everybody is in a panic mode,” Lee says. “We’ve got to get a handle on this.”
The coronavirus pandemic has seen the United States top the world in the number of confirmed cases, with roughly 1 million cases and over 58,000 American deaths from the respiratory disease. The pandemic is also responsible for historic rates of unemployment, with tens of millions of people filing for unemployment benefits nationwide and hundreds of companies closing their doors.
“We are in unchartered water now,” said Lee, who is a past board member of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), a global network and resource for cleaning, facility maintenance, security, landscaping and other service companies related to building owners and managers.
Lee said the best response to fight back in the social-distancing, home quarantine normal we are now experiencing is for everyone to wash their hands frequently and to properly clean office spaces, homes and other dwellings.
To do this, Lee said everyone has to carefully follow the directions on cleaning products, particularly those instructing “dwell” times. This means if a cleaning product advises that once it’s sprayed, it must be wet on a surface for five or ten minutes before the product disinfects, it will take this full time frame, or “dwell” time, to properly sanitize and/or disinfect surfaces. If not, it must be done again.
This is important because simply spraying and cleaning surfaces essentially achieves nothing, aside from making the room smell good. Lee also noted that there’s a big difference between cleaning and disinfecting. He said products that are just labeled as cleaning or sanitizing products won’t effectively kill the coronavirus.
“It has to be a disinfectant,” Lee explained. “All-purpose cleaners are not disinfectants. (All-purpose cleaners) can clean stuff, but they don’t disinfect. It may have a soapy base that is going to clean and sanitize but again, that doesn’t mean it’s disinfected.”
Last month, the Lees held a free webinar with the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce to discuss the proper cleaning methods to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The seminar was packed with business representatives eager to learn something from the cleaner.
They gave tried and true advice: “Wash your hands.” Also, “do your best to make sure you’re wiping down your surfaces more than you have – those are key things.”
For the couple, it was a way to give back to their community but also to educate people with factual information that could help make the difference in how the business community responds to the pandemic.
“I just felt for myself, this isn’t a business thing. I just want to say that we were there, we were able to give people information,” Lee said. “We wanted to give people something outside of doom and gloom.”
And he also feels it important to remind his anxious clients that he has an excellent track record.
“I’ve been in the clinical space for 17 years. I’ve been blessed to obtain the certifications necessary to train and educate my teams so that we may continue to keep our client-partners safe,” Lee said.