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New tech that uses UV lights may help create safer workplaces amid COVID-19

New tech may help create safer workplaces amid COVID-19
New tech may help create safer workplaces amid COVID-19
New tech may help create safer workplaces amid COVID-19
Posted at 1:20 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 13:21:10-04

It looks like something out of science fiction: a portal made up of ultraviolet lights, designed to kill an enemy you can’t see.

“That's kind of the first layer of protection that we've implemented,” said Christian Pinkston, who heads up his own strategic communications firm, “Pinkston.”

Fifty employees usually work within its 16,000 sq. ft. office. At the moment, though, it’s far fewer.

“Right now, it's dark and lonely,” he said.

So, Pinkston decided to turn to new technology to try and create a safer workspace for when employees return. That starts with the portal of UV lights, designed to kill any pathogen--including the coronavirus-- that may be on any person or thing.

“Every guest or staff member will walk through you do kind of a slow turn,” Pinkston said. “Every delivery, every package, will be cleansed before it gets into our space.”

The technology takes off from there.

There are ultraviolet lights in the ceiling--at a level safe for humans, but deadly to viruses. Also, there is titanium dioxide, a compound sprayed on everything in the office and said to self-disinfect any surface for up to a year.

“When a virus or bacteria or microbe lands on a surface that's been coated, it will automatically deactivate it very quickly,” Pinkston said.

Plus, there’s now a real-time, air monitoring system installed.

“Soon, it will specifically be able to detect the coronavirus present in the air,” Pinkston said.

Researchers at Columbia University found that specialized UV lights, also known as far UV lights, could eradicate two seasonal types of airborne coronaviruses. But what about the rest of the tech?

“There’s not enough data yet to know what’s safe and what’s effective,” said Dr. Donald Milton, a professor of occupational health at the University of Maryland. “I’m thinking a lot about what kind of investments make sense to try to protect people in workplaces.”

Dr. Milton said it’s understandable for people to turn to technology as a coronavirus fix, but the eventual solution will require more.

“It’s going to be a combination of figuring out which technologies do work in the workplace, getting good ventilation in workplaces, getting good air sanitation, having good cleaning practices,” said Dr. Milton, adding that widespread testing would be required, as well.

Back at his office, Pinkston said it’s all been worth the investment of tens of thousands of dollars.

“It's a huge effort,” he said.

Recently, Pinkston conducted an anonymous employee survey and found many employees still fear returning, despite having that new technology installed. So, for now, the company has no set date for when workers there might go back.

Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.