November 2, 2020: According to recommendations from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), HCLS is moving to a 48-hour quarantine period for returned materials effective Monday, November 2. While the REALM study provides data to inform decisions, it does not provide recommendations. The MDH reviewed the REALM data and subsequently recommended a 48 hour quarantine period.
From the outset of the pandemic, HCLS has aligned its policies and practices with guidance from medical science experts at the national, state and local level and will continue to do so. This new guidance from MDH is the latest pivot, but likely not the last, as experts the world over are still learning and providing libraries with the information needed to successfully adapt.
As part of the REALM (Reopening Archives Libraries and Museums) Project, OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle are conducting research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums. The project will draw upon the research to produce authoritative, science-based information on how—or if— materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors. To date, five rounds of tests have been conducted.
- Round one tested a hardback book cover (buckram cloth), softback book cover, plain paper pages inside a closed book, plastic book covering (biaxially oriented polyester film), and DVD case.
- Round two tested Braille paper pages, glossy paper pages from a coffee table book, magazine pages, children’s board book, and archival folders
- Round three tested a talking book, USB cassette, DVD, storage bag (flexible plastic), storage container (rigid plastic), and plexiglass.
- Round four tested a hardback book cover (buckram cloth), softcover book cover (coated paper), plastic protective cover (biaxially oriented polyester film), DVD case (polypropylene), and expanded polyethylene foam (1-inch expanded polyethylene foam).
- Round five tested a leather book cover, synthetic leather, polyolefin fabric, cotton fabric, and nylon webbing.
- Round six is testing five materials that are commonly found in furnishings and exhibits of libraries: marble (flooring, counters), powder-coated steel (lockers, shelving, book trucks, exhibit elements), laminate (countertops), brass (fixtures, railings), and glass (windows, display cases).
From the study, “Results show that after six days of quarantine, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was still detected on all five materials tested (graphic below). The results of Test 4 highlight the effect of stacking and its ability to prolong the survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
The British Medical Journal article Managing Uncertainty in the COVID-19 Era presents five rules for making decisions during times of uncertainty:
- Most data will be flawed or incomplete. Be honest and transparent about this.
- For some questions, certainty can be or never be reached. Consider carefully whether to wait for definitive evidence or act on the evidence that you have.
- Make sense of complex situations by acknowledging the complexity, admitting ignorance, exploring the paradoxes, and reflecting collectively.
- Different people and different stakeholder groups interpret data differently. Deliberation among stakeholders may generate multifaceted solutions.
- Pragmatic intervention carefully observed and compared in real-world settings can generate useful data to complement the findings of controlled trials and other forms of evidence.
Read about HCLS phased reopening plans here.