Report | Dec. 18, 2020

Audit of the Disinfection of Department of Defense Facilities in Response to the Coronavirus Disease–2019 (DODIG-2021-036)

Audit

Publicly Released: December 22, 2020

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine whether DoD and DoD contractor personnel disinfected areas that were occupied by individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID‑19) in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

Background

On March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency in response to the outbreak of COVID‑19 in the United States. COVID‑19 is an infectious disease that can spread through direct contact with an infected person or indirect contact with surfaces that were contaminated by an infected person. To reduce the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID‑19, Federal and DoD officials issued guidance for disinfecting areas that were occupied by individuals who tested positive for COVID‑19.

On April 1, 2020, the CDC published guidance for disinfecting areas that were occupied by individuals who tested positive for COVID‑19 (referred to as affected areas in this report). In this report, affected areas that need disinfection refer to all areas that the infected individual occupied, including his or her office, restrooms, and common areas such as an elevator. According to the CDC guidance, disinfecting crews should wait at least 24 hours, or as long as possible, before entering affected areas. In addition, disinfecting crews should disinfect affected areas using products that the Environmental Protection Agency approved and use personal protective equipment when disinfecting affected areas.

Based on the CDC guidance, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness issued guidance on April 13, 2020, related to protecting DoD personnel during the response to the COVID‑19 pandemic. Specifically, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness issued Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 8) stating that DoD Components should follow CDC guidance when disinfecting affected areas.

Based on Federal and DoD guidance, the DoD and DoD contractor personnel coordinated and performed the disinfection of areas that were previously occupied by individuals who tested positive for COVID‑19. As more of the DoD workforce returns to work, disinfection efforts reduce the risk of infection for DoD personnel who enter areas that were previously occupied by individuals who tested positive for COVID‑19.

Finding

At all eight DoD installations we reviewed, DoD and DoD contractor personnel disinfected, in accordance with CDC guidance, the areas that were previously occupied by individuals who tested positive for COVID‑19. We determined that in all 21 cases we reviewed from April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020, DoD and DoD contractor personnel complied with CDC guidance for disinfecting affected areas. Specifically, we determined that when DoD personnel identified an affected area, DoD and DoD contractor personnel:

  • waited at least 24 hours, or as long as possible, before disinfecting affected areas;
     
  • disinfected affected areas using disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency; and
     
  • used personal protective equipment when disinfecting affected areas.

Disinfecting areas in accordance with CDC guidance can kill the virus that causes COVID‑19. As a result, DoD personnel reduced the risk of exposure to COVID‑19 and further protected DoD personnel from the spread of COVID‑19 in DoD workspaces. While we conclude that the implemented disinfecting procedures provided reasonable assurance that DoD and DoD contractor personnel at the selected DoD installations complied with CDC guidance, these disinfecting procedures do not eliminate the risk of infection through contaminated surfaces and individuals may still be exposed to the virus that causes COVID‑19.

This report is a result of Project No. D2020-D000RH-0128.000.