Safely reopening America’s schools remains a big discussion.
Many creative cleaning solutions have come out of the pandemic, and now some schools are using a technology more commonly associated with hospitals.
“When this light is hitting things like, say, surfaces where there's viruses or bacteria or anything like that, it penetrates through the outside of the bacteria or virus to the inner portions. It keeps it from replicating, basically destroys it inside so it's no longer infectious,” Staci Kvak, health care epidemiologist at the University of Washington Medical Center, said.
It’s a technology that’s been used for years, and it’s a viable line of defense against COVID-19. When used correctly, it can kill the virus, as Kvak explains.
“You have your manual cleaning with your chemical disinfectant, but there's always that human factor where you know, ‘Oh, I missed the phone, I didn't end up wiping that as well.' We bring in the UV light as kind of our second line of defense,” she said. It’s a seemingly simple solution for disinfecting surfaces and the air. Those beyond the medical field started to notice.
“This is technology that's been around for over 100 years. It’s kind of forgotten but it's making a major come back right now,” Jim Mischel, the CEO of Safeology, said. “We developed products that are simple to install that can disinfect the air very quickly.”
Those products include light towers to disinfect surfaces, and air filters and ceiling fixtures that disinfect the air. Mischel said their mission is simple.
“We designed products to help schools, offices, hotels, and restaurants to open up again," Mischel said.
This factory is used mostly to make electric mirrors, but Mischel saw an opportunity to do more, and answer a simple question.
“How can we use all this lighting technology and apply it to killing COVID?” he said. ”Besides opening the windows, there's nothing more affordable than doing UV to clean the air.”
This relatively low cost helped school leaders like Blair Bryant, superintendent at Cedar Park Elementary Schools, add another tool to their line of defense.
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to be able to open schools in a safe and healthy way, so we’re going to be able to reach these kids,” Bryant said.
Cedar Park Christian Schools has been open for in person learning 100% all year.
“It’s worked very well. Occasionally, we’ve had a group of students that we had stay home,” he said.
They’ve sent groups of kids home when exposed to someone with the virus, but the schools has otherwise stayed open.
On top of the usual distancing, hand washing, masking, and encouraging self health checks, the school also uses Safeology’s products.
“All of these things together have really helped us be able to keep our schools open,” Bryant said.
In the CDC’s guidelines for operating schools during COVID-19, it suggests UVC light as a solution to deactivate COVID-19.
“You can do a large classroom for about three dollars a day,” Mischel said.
However Kvak says to be aware when choosing who to purchase UVC light devices from.
“There are so many different devices and they are not regulated in the same way a disinfectant would be, so you need to be really careful that it’s working the way you expected to work and for the amount of time that it needs to be,” she explained.
While UVC light may not be appropriate for every situation -- for example humans can not be near, or look directly at these light towers when they’re on -- the uses for this technology reaches beyond COVID-19.
“There’s a list so long that UV has been proven to kill, it’s unbelievable,” Mischel said. “The viruses come on a repeated basis. We as a nation will be more prepared as ever as we invest in this new technology.”