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New study finds the coronavirus lingers for 6 days on stacked materials

November 23, 2020

Across the country, courts continue to establish plans to return to full in-person operations during the ongoing pandemic. New information on the lifespan of the coronavirus on stacked materials may impact those plans.

OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle created the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project to assist in getting libraries safely open to the public. The REALM project’s most recent tests focused on the exterior surfaces of hardcover books (buckram cloth), softback books, plastic DVD cases, and mylar protective book cover jackets stacked to simulate storage configurations. The results showed when materials were laid flat the virus was not detectable three days after the first test, but materials stacked, like books on library shelves, the virus was still detectable after six days.

Of course, public law libraries are not the only part of the courthouse that deals with paper.  Twenty four states implemented statewide e-filing for attorneys, and even then, filings were limited to civil matters. That still results in a large number of stored media across the courthouse that can potentially spread coronavirus.

One solution is to not stack items proven to sustain the virus. Space issues limit the practicality of this method. The CDC provides a list of approved cleaners for the disinfection of porous materials as well as a reminder to wear PPE and gloves while handling such material and to follow the EPA’s guide for safe and effective disinfectant use for non-porous surfaces. Another option may be antimicrobial products that may be able to kill coronavirus on surfaces for days or even months, with one such product earning EPA approval for use on airplanes.

Ultraviolet (UV) light is being touted as another option for killing coronavirus, but the
Northeastern Document Conversation Center advises against using UV light because UV requires 40 minutes of high exposure, is only effective with direct exposure, and is detrimental to books. The organization instead advises quarantining materials and using gloves and PPE when handling them. Microwaving materials is not recommended because the metal in staples and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can create a fire hazard. Another option is to use as little paper as possible. Manatee County, Florida found that switching to an e-filing system saved nearly a million dollars a year.

For more reading on pandemic and electronic filing visit NCSC’s Pandemic Resource Guide and Electronic Filing Resource Guide pages.

For the latest on court technology make sure to attend the biannual eCourts conference, December 7-9, 2020. Register now.

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