There’s a lot of information available about how to combat viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), as well as other communicable illnesses, in the school environment. Masks, handwashing, social distancing—even the use of toxic chemical cleaners and disinfectants, are some of the common examples. And while each of these methods has its place in a holistic cleaning regimen, there are many signs saying that they may not be enough.
Defensive measures like masks, hand washing, and social distancing may help reduce the spread of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, but they don’t do anything about the root cause of transmission. Chemical cleaners may be helpful, but they don’t reach everywhere and may present additional unwanted concerns.
That’s why parents should be encouraging their kids’ schools to add UVC products to the cleaning protocols. They’re safe and scientifically proven to kill 99.9 percent of viruses like SARS-CoV-2 – and even the tougher noroviruses that cause stomach illnesses. UVC products are available to clean not only surfaces but also the air—which has proven to be the primary means of COVID-19 transmission. They’re recommended by the CDC, and they qualify for Federal CARES Act funding.
First, What Does Clean Even Mean?
People often confuse the term cleaning with disinfecting, especially when it comes to spaces. While this may have been fine pre-pandemic, the coronavirus shone a spotlight on the glaring difference between the two.
Cleaning is the act of removing clutter and other obvious signs of dirt and contamination, usually using soap and water. On the other hand, disinfecting is the process of killing harmful microorganisms.
To put it more clearly, something can look “clean” and still have viruses and other pathogens. You need to “disinfect” it too to remove the risk of the infection spreading.
Another common misconception is that using chemicals is the only way to disinfect a space or area. This is highly inaccurate. Further, the disinfection only lasts until the surface is touched again. In a high-traffic area like a classroom, it’s virtually impossible to physically clean and disinfect after every use.
A better option is using UVC light, which can disinfect the air, water, and all non-porous surfaces. It’s a very effective disinfecting tool that the CDC and FDA recommend, even referring to it as a “germicidal”.
Practical Solutions are Tough to Find
With traditional cleaning methods, someone has to physically perform the task. And a surface will only remain clean until it’s touched again. This requires extra personnel or relies on teachers. Either way, it has significant cost implications.
By investing in UVC light products such as Upper Room Fixtures, or Mobile Air Purifiers which have the added benefit of being able to be programmed to operate automatically, schools can ensure a continuous disinfecting capability and even end up saving money.
Solving the Actual Problem
Preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is a key step in winning the war on the COVID-19 pandemic. As individuals, we can all use defensive measures such as washing our hands, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing. While important, though, by themselves these tactics are not enough.
Schools can and should adopt offensive measures as well. Investing in safe, chemical-free solutions like UVC light products will not only help ensure clean, safe spaces now, but will benefit the schools long after this pandemic has subsided.
Parents can’t forget that the coronavirus is not the only germ threat out there. Kids can also spread the norovirus, colds, strep throat, etc. Even after the COVID-19 virus has gone, there will be lingering health issues. Cleanliness will always be a concern that can only be addressed by long-term solutions.
Long after the COVID pandemic had shut down virtually all in-person learning, the CDC discovered that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, was being transmitted primarily through the air. Armed with this knowledge, schools began looking for a way to disinfect the air so students and teachers could get back in the classroom.
At Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Facilities Manager Jeff Lloyd was tasked with finding a solution to address air quality concerns throughout the campus. At first the logical answer seemed to be an upgraded ventilation system. But the age and configuration of the school’s facilities meant they wouldn’t be a good candidate for a complete HVAC overhaul. Even though the school had $1 million in CARES Act funding it wasn’t nearly enough to do the job.
Jeff researched UVC disinfection, a proven technology used for decades in healthcare settings, and came across Safeology which offers a number of products designed to clean both surfaces and air and kill microorganisms proactively.
According to Jeff, three things really stood out, “Safeology has a Scientific Advisory Board that guides product development. They have better solutions than standalone UVC lighting. And, their Mobile Air Purifiers can be used when people are present in the same room.”
Jeff and the school’s Building Committee recommended UVC products to the School Board, who approved the purchase of 73 Mobile Air Purifiers. “We liked that they were free standing and simple to implement. We also liked Safeology’s Cloud-based Admin that allows us to control and monitor all of the units from one central location.”
Once the order was placed, the company worked closely with the school’s IT department to ensure the UVC disinfection products would meet their needs. Along the way, the school made suggestions on how the products could be enhanced. Some of those product enhancements include relocating the Wi-Fi board for a better signal, adding the ability to change fan speeds at different times each day, scheduling firmware updates so they don’t interfere with classroom time, and exporting device data to CSV files for easy reporting and presentation.
Though the current pandemic will eventually pass, the airborne transmission of viruses, bacteria, and fungi will always be of concern. Classroom cleanliness will always be a priority. With the implementation of trusted UVC technology, schools like Housatonic Valley Regional High School can earn an A+ in taking a big step forward to create the cleanest education environment possible.