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COVID-19 and Public Health Mosquito Control

written by
Michelle Selander

Navigating Mosquito Control in Covid

The impacts of COVID-19 and its subsequent variants were an obstacle that every mosquito control program needed to navigate. And for many, its effects are ongoing.

In nearly all jurisdictions, mosquito control is considered an essential public health service and therefore must maintain operations even during challenging times. But how do you maintain operational continuity under social distancing guidelines, shelter-in-place orders or reduced staffing?

As part of our work with mosquito abatement districts across the United States, Clarke was able to be on the forefront of public health mosquito control operations – and to learn how to best approach and conduct operations as close to usual as possible while also leaping ever-emerging hurdles.

Below, you will find a comprehensive guide to maintaining business operations amid COVID-19 regulations and stipulations, including tactics for community engagement, trends for service continuity, the benefits of extended control products and ways to further utilize application equipment for disinfection.

Mosquito Control and Community Engagement During COVID-19

During time periods when people are close to home, early season field work such as inspecting breeding sites, larviciding and trapping/surveillance will be more visible than usual in communities. So be ready to engage!

The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, serving the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area, worked with their local CBS station to feature how their program operated under COVID-19 restrictions. They stressed the importance of staff protection and prioritizing their work, while reinforcing the simple but highly effective actions residents can take to remove standing water and eliminate potential breeding sites around their properties.

See a copy of the article and news clip here. This is a great example of outreach that any mosquito control program can do with their local media partners.


Practical Media Relations Tips

  • Time your media outreach with weather conditions that signal first broods – warming temperatures following a rainy period. That’s when local media will find your story most relevant.
  • Have photography of your field teams working according to current social distancing or PPE protocols.
  • Prepare talking points focused on the public health importance of mosquito control and how services are being adjusted.
  • Explain what residents should expect to see from your field crews working in their communities (yard inspections, trap checks, catch basin treatments, etc).
  • Have a checklist for residents to follow to eliminate standing water around their property.
  • Prepare a crew to talk with or even spend time in the field with your media partners.

Download this article in PDF form.

PROVIDING MOSQUITO CONTROL SERVICE CONTINUITY DURING COVID-19 

Mosquito control programs from coast-to-coast have shared how they are continuing work as an essential public health service, while protecting the health and safety of their staff members. Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned:

Mosquito Control Operations During COVID-19

Icon of a ULV truck applying near a home

Four trends for mitigating COVID-19 impacts on mosquito control operations are emerging as mosquito control programs adjust their operational protocols:

  1. More employees are home-based. Technicians are assigned one truck to keep at home, get dispatch orders over the phone or email, drive to the office only to pick-up product or for equipment service, and payroll hours are logged via web-based systems.
  2. One person per truck is the new standard. No morning huddles or team meetings unless they’re handled digitally.
  3. Responses to nuisance calls are being temporarily suspended.
  4. Backpack sprayers with EPA-approved disinfectants are being used to provide disinfection services in public spaces.

Applications to Control Mosquitoes During COVID-19

Backpack ULV Application IconAlthough there are certainly periods of time when treatments and applications will be low, rising temperatures increase the demand for control applications. Mosquito control abatement districts are managing applications by:

  1. Focusing on pre-season suppression with extended control larvicides.
  2. Considering drones for wide area control or reduced staff exposure.
  3. Weighing the benefits of aerial applications for maximum efficiency.
  4. Protecting PPE supply by opting for products with less PPE requirements.

Staffing Mosquito Control Programs During COVID-19

Here are a few ways mosquito control programs are managing scheduling for their workforce of essential public health workers during COVID-19.

  1. Split shifts or staggered start times provide more flexibility and promote social distancing.
  2. Administrative staff are rotating days in the office to manage deliveries and phone lines.
  3. Proceeding cautiously with ramping up seasonal staff.

Download the article in PDF format.

Using Residual Larvicides for Early Season Suppression During COVID-19

Control programs often turn to larvicides to get ahead of early season population spikes.

Routinely hitting known breeding sites with single-brood larvicides is typically the control method of choice for early season population suppression. Temporary water sources are common in the spring, and when you time applications right, single-brood larvicides can do an excellent job at managing synchronous brood hatch offs. But under COVID-19 operating conditions, programs are short on staff, trying to limit coworker exposure and generally looking for ways to be more efficient. And so, some programs are considering a switch to residual larvicides this spring.

Here’s Why Residual Larvicides Might Make Sense for Mosquito Control Programs during COVID-19:

  • Less labor: Fewer overall applications required.
  • Lasts longer: Residual products will control multiple broods of mosquito larvae, and usually deliver at least 30 days of control.
  • More flexible: Treatment sites don’t need to be actively breeding. Residual products will activate when the site gets wet, and in some cases, can even reactivate after a dry down.
  • Comparable overall cost: One residual product treatment is comparable to the product cost of 3 or 4 single brood applications in one month.

Larvicides by Air During COVID-19

Mosquito control programs are reporting larvicide applications by air may make sense to them given the aforementioned conditions. Compared to ground treatments, aerial applications would allow them to:

  • Maintain applications and control with less labor.
  • Quickly cover a lot of acreage.
  • Limit coworker exposure opportunities.

Download this article in PDF format.

What Outdoor Disinfecting Applications are Effective?

We have seen the photos from around the world of outdoor fogging with disinfectants. But is worthwhile? With staffing resources at a premium, think twice about how to go about with outdoor disinfecting.

Be Deliberate with Outdoor Disinfection

Prioritize where you are disinfecting outdoors. Focus on high touch and high trafficked public areas.

In a study reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 only lasts in the air up to three hours. Thus, ultra-low volume (ULV) ‘fogging’ would be very inefficient at reaching and controlling live virus. By comparison, the virus survives on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic two to three days.

As noted in a recent Science Magazine article “Does disinfecting surfaces really prevent the spread of coronavirus?” people don’t lick or touch sidewalks, steps or roads. So wide area treatments of open public spaces should take a second seat to high-touch surfaces such as railings, doors, benches, playground equipment, tables and chairs.

Be Direct

A gas-powered backpack applicator is an ideal means of treating these surfaces. Applicators such as the Clarke Guardsman ULV Backpack Sprayer provides true ULV droplets that efficiently and effectively apply disinfectants to targeted hard surfaces. Click here for a list of EPA listed disinfectants.

Download this article in PDF format.

Answering Questions About Clarke’s Business During COVID-19

Is mosquito control considered an essential service during Shelter-in-Place orders?

Yes! Mosquito control is considered an essential public health service during Shelter-in-Place orders. Public Health mosquito control programs help mitigate the impact and spread of vector borne diseases and illness. Clarke’s mosquito control products, equipment and service businesses remain fully operational. Read more about this here.

For more information about the role of public health mosquito control in the U.S., see the Association of State and Territorial Health Organization’s (ASTHO) Public Health Confronts the Mosquito and National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Capabilities Based Framework for Mosquito Control in the U.S.

Is Aquatic management considered an essential service during Shelter-in-Place orders?

Yes! Aquatic services are also considered an essential public health service during Shelter-in-Place orders. Aquatics services manage weed and algae species to help maintain healthy waterways and prevent water-borne diseases and illness, including Harmful Algal Blooms. Clarke Aquatics remains fully operational. Read more about this here.

Can mosquitoes transmit coronavirus?

No! The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concur, mosquitoes do not transmit coronavirus.  Read more here.