Ultraviolet Light Is Hopeful Viral Defense | The SandPaper

The unrelenting COVID-19 has been a defining factor in the success or failure of thousands of businesses. The restrictions imposed by the health crisis have forced those surviving to get creative.

The unrelenting COVID-19 has been a defining factor in the success or failure of thousands of businesses. The restrictions imposed by the health crisis have forced those surviving to get creative.

That means heightened sanitation measures, operating at limited capacity and requiring face masks upon entry to many establishments. Some businesses are utilizing an old school technique to up their sanitation game by combating the spread of pathogens not only on surfaces, but those airborne as well.

For years, UVC radiation has been utilized by contractors in attics, ducts and crawl spaces as a less toxic, more efficient means of mold remediation, by disinfecting the air. Now this method is being utilized as an added precaution against the transmission of COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration reports, “UVC radiation is a known disinfectant for air, water and nonporous surfaces. UVC radiation has effectively been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis. For this reason, UVC lamps are often called ‘germicidal’ lamps.”

According to the FDA, UVC radiation has been shown to destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS coronavirus, which is different from the current virus plaguing 2020. However, UVC radiation may also be effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus which causes COVID-19), though data is limited regarding proper wavelength, dose and duration of radiation required to inactivate the virus.

Moreover, there are limitations to how effective UVC radiation can be in the inactivation of viruses. For example, the virus must be directly exposed to the radiation for the method to be effective. In other words, if the radiation is blocked by soil, dust or other contaminants, such as bodily fluids, it may be unsuccessful.

Most importantly, the FDA warns that direct exposure to UVC radiation can be harmful to humans.

John and Sonia’s Luncheonette in the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor Township, is one of a few local businesses to employ the use of UVC radiation as a supplemental method of sanitation.

Luncheonette owner John Spinelli explained they had UVC lighting installed in late June, as most restaurant owners were preparing to reopen indoor dining for the July 4th weekend.

“We had the air conditioning company install ultraviolet lighting inside the units. They’ll do it for anybody, and it purifies the air through the duct work.

“Then it never happened,” he added, recalling Gov. Murphy’s last-minute decision to hold off on reopening indoor dining. Fortunately, the UVC lighting did serve a purpose in the meantime, as the diner stayed busy with takeout orders until it was officially permitted to reopen in September.

Since reopening indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, Spinelli reported, “It’s been really good – great, actually. It’s been a savior.”

Due to the high number of senior citizens in the Mystic Island community, the luncheonette is still operating on a high volume of takeout. “We’re about 50 percent takeout and 50 percent people coming in,” he said.

Spinelli installed UVC lighting in three of his air conditioning units, and plans to install a separate heating unit for another room. In the meantime, he is also running HEPA filters for continuous air purification. He also uses an ozone machine at night (because, like UV, ozone exposure is harmful for humans) to help purify the air.

“I’ve been using the ozone machine for years,” he said. “It kills bacteria and makes the store smell better in the morning.”

There is signage on the door indicating the measures being utilized and precautions being taken. In addition to restricted capacity and the several methods of air purification, there is hand sanitizer on the counter as well as on the tables. Of course, masks are enforced when patrons are not sitting at a table to dine. Even the kitchen staff wear masks.

“You can see in our kitchen,” Spinelli said. “The cooks aren’t really required to wear masks when working over an open flame, but they do it anyway to give people a sense of security.

“People see the precautions we’re taking, and they appreciate it, but I don’t think it’s bringing in extra clients,” he said. “In my opinion, there’s a certain percentage of the public that is comfortable coming out. You’re either comfortable or you’re not.”

Those who are not ready to come out will simply continue to order takeout, and while he is happy to see people enjoying themselves while dining at his luncheonette, Spinelli is grateful to be able to continue to fulfill those takeout orders.

According to Spinelli, there are the few who are slowly making their way out into the world with caution, asking for an outdoor table, or one in the far corner, but they are few and far between. On the other hand, there is the Sunday post-church rush.

“A lot of people don’t seem to understand, whether I agree or not, there are rules that need to be followed,” Spinelli said. “I can’t have 20 people on top of each other in the store. I’m not even comfortable with that.” He noted that while some are still “terrified,” those who do come out “don’t seem nervous or overly concerned.” He laughed. “There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground!”

Whether or not the added UVC radiation is helping to bring in new customers, Spinelli rests assured knowing he is keeping his staff healthy and comfortable.

“This technology has been around for a very long time because it’s supposed to be very good for preventing the flu,” he said. “COVID aside, even if it prevents me or my staff from getting the flu, it’s worth it.”

Massage therapist Kim Belardino of Kindred Spirit Massage and Wellness in Manahawkin also prepared ahead, installing another method of UVC radiation during quarantine.

She explained, “When we were closed down (we were closed for four months, and weren’t able to officially reopen until June 22), I didn’t know what they were going to require of us, as massage therapists.”

Belardino utilized the closure to research sanitation methods so she would be prepared whenever the executive order was lifted. She compared the different types of UV radiation (the FDA recommends UVC as the most effective) and different systems for administering it.

“One was a hand-held wand that you would hover over surfaces,” she said. “That’s a little time consuming, and I wanted something broader.” She found UVC light bulbs, and placed one in the recessed lighting of each of her therapy rooms. Each bulb covers 333 square feet of surface.

When she was allowed to reopen her doors on July 1, Belardino had her sanitation protocol in place. She outlined her process.

“After each massage, we wipe down all the surfaces in the room with a disinfectant. We let that sit, and then the UVC bulb can be used on a timer. We turn the UVC light on and shut the door, so no one is exposed to the light.”

Belardino currently leaves an hour gap between massage appointments so she has about 10 to 15 minutes to sanitize the room, and 45 minutes to let the light work its magic. She sanitizes again at the end of the day and leaves the UVC light on for an hour.

When Belardino first reopened, she attempted scheduling just every other day to limit her exposure to clients, “but the demand was so strong that I found myself booked too far in advance to keep up.”

Of course, there is a small percentage of clients who, because they are older or have compromised immune systems, are still not ready to come back.

“But honestly, I’ve had more business since reopening than before,” she explained, citing both existing and new clients. She also noted clients are booking longer sessions than ever before. “Everybody has just been so stressed out and so burnt out from the whole thing that they just need care.”

For Belardino, the UVC lighting is just an additional comfort for both herself and her clients. So far, “everybody has had a positive experience,” she said, adding that so far, she has not had any reported cases of COVID-19 among her clients since reopening.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep our clients safe … but more importantly, stress free, which can keep your immune system healthy, because stress is actually the number one killer,” said Belardino. “It’s important to take care of yourself.”

— Monique M. Demopoulos


Source: Ultraviolet Light Is Hopeful Viral Defense | The SandPaper


Leave a comment