I hope to have about a dozen posts here, each with this same introductory statement of a few paragraphs before I get to an idea presentation. My position is that each side of the reopening issue has valid points. On the one hand, the more in which close, interpersonal contact takes place in a reopening (even with masks, which are flawed), the greater is the prospect of a resurgence of Covid-19 and an increase in deaths. And such a resurgence would lead to another drive for shutdowns. On the other hand, the country will simply fall apart if we do not begin to reopen or, if upon reopening, we were to again be forced to comply with a drive for new shutdowns as a result of a resurgence. Many lives have already been ruined and there is only so much that the economy can take.
Of course, we would not be facing such a dilemma if we had a vaccine or a cure. In such a situation, a reopening would be rapid and there would be no turning back. But we don’t have a cure or vaccine, leaving us back with our uncomfortable choices.
Despite the flaws that can be seen in both paths, I believe a new path should be aggressively pursued, one which would actually take into account the concerns of both sides. This path would have two prongs: (1) greatly reduce the prospect of the contact transmission and airborne transmission of Covid-19 by exploring some existing technologies from a new angle; and (2) exploring ways in which people could be made less susceptible in having a severe outcome if they got infected. In other words, I believe there are far more effective ways in which to protect people from Covid-19 (and future pandemic organisms) than the standard ones of hand washing, standing six feet apart, setting up acrylic barriers and wearing masks (tactics which should be maintained). In fact, I believe there are ways in which substantial protection can be provided concurrent with the closer contact between people which will inevitably come with a reopening, even in restaurants and on airplanes.
I will admit that some of my ideas would cost a tidy sum to implement. There is no way around it. However, in a world where trillions of dollars have already been allocated, I think these concepts, in totality, would be among the few that would directly apply to Covid-19 and would have the greatest impact on it.
Please not that in the following idea I have simply made an observation and expanded upon it. I hope you will find that I have presented a concept which is rational and logical. Of course, there may be flaws of which I am not aware, but we should work on overcoming them and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The idea follows.
I am proposing a blending of existing technologies to create a hopefully lightweight device which could enhance the protective capabilities of N95 respirators against Covid-19 and perhaps provide sufficient protective benefits as a stand-alone. This could benefit health care providers and the general population. In addition to offering protection, it would have an advantage of not impeding the breathing (as the N95 respirator tends to do) or interfering with regular communication (as more advanced alternatives do, see below). The latter point would assist in many people performing their regular jobs or going about a daily routine. The system I propose could even be used while eating.
First, some background. There appears to be some controversy over whether people who are not in a healthcare setting should wear surgical face masks, the more protective N95 respirators, or nothing at all. Surgical face masks are intended to protect the environment from the wearer (not the other way around) and N95 respirators can offer protection from Covid-19. The protection rate is about 95%; we need 100%. Their drawback is that they are difficult to tolerate for a long period of time, as the thick material impedes regular breathing. Another potential option, not discussed much, are reusable elastomeric respirators (used heavily in various non-healthcare industries - see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK540078/ ). For the sake of argument, let’s assume that they give 100% protection. However, they have a major drawback in that it is difficult to communicate with them. There are undoubtedly various advanced designs in industry and healthcare involving face shields, such as this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ3ANkCeSzE , but we are faced again with communication problems and temperature concerns in various settings.
For the sake of this discussion, let us assume that people are going to go ahead and try to acquire some type of covering, including N95 respirators. If they go for reusable elastomeric respirators or other advanced options, they would have to contend with their significant drawbacks in the everyday world. The focus here is with augmenting face masks and N95 respirators.
As an overview of my concept, I propose a “face shield”, where the “shield” consists of an air curtain combined with Far UVC light. It would follow the general outline of a traditional face shield, but would weigh a bit more (hopefully not too much) and might require a supplemental power pack, which could be worn over the shoulder. Essentially, people would carry these about in similar manner which the people in London did with gas masks during the Blitz ( https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/gas-masks-1930s-wwii-europe-chemical-warfare-homefront ).
Now, a little background on Far UVC light. First, when thinking of a virus-killing light, people generally think of ultraviolet (UVC) light. It is already being used to kill Covid-19 on various objects. Despite its high degree of effectiveness, prolong exposure to humans is harmful. There is however, an alternative : Far UVC. It has the same very rapid killing effect, but research so far suggests that it will not harm the human body. In order to ensure that the proposed UVC/Air Curtain face shield does not expose the body to any risk in this regard, it incorporates special design considerations. The following provides insights on UVC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200325-covid-19-the-history-of-pandemics ; https://www.digitaltrends.com/news/can-uv-light-kill-coronavirus/ ; https://www.rfsafe.com/207-222-nm-uvc-light-can-slow-spread-of-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/ ; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21058-w .
This has more information on Far UVC:
This suggests the Far-UVC can be emitted by LED: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/uvglo-the-world-s-smartest-uv-c-led-sterilizer#/ .
This company ha regular UVC emitted by LED: https://www.larsonelectronics.com/ . If Far-UVC can indeed be made with LED, then the design of our proposed Far-UVC / Air Screen Face Shield will be easier to construct. Otherwise, it will not be so easy.
The other main component is an air curtain. Air curtains are basically a series of air jets or a single air vent which shoots downward from an upper frame. There is nothing to prevent upward or side-based jets, but downward jets seem more appropriate to our situation. Here is an example where they have been used against insect vectors: https://berner.com/news/hvac-industrys-air-curtains-expected-help-u-s-fight-oncoming-mosquito-borne-zika-virus-see-httpwww-healthcarefacilitiestoday-compostshvac-industrys-air-curtains-expected-help-u/ . The reason that the concept of an air curtain is being thrown into the mix in this presentation is because Covid-19 seems to stay in the air for quite some time. There is dispute as to whether or not someone would have to be in the vicinity of an infected person who has sneezed, coughed or exhaled in a strong manner, but let’s err on the side of caution. Logic dictates that an air curtain could inhibit the intrusion of Covid-19 into close proximity of a person’s face. This is actually not an original concept, as the following links indicate that others have thought along these lines in the past: http://www.tuvie.com/breathe-invisible-mask-creates-air-curtain-around-your-nose-and-mouth/ ; https://patents.google.com/patent/CN204191650U/en ; http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2013/0118506.html ; http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2005/0061316.html .
So we now have a foundation for the concept. I will presently move to a plausible design. Mind you, I am completely deficient in artistic ability, so I will try to explain things carefully. We begin with the basic design of a conventional face shield: https://www.amdnext.com/face-shield-full-clr-plastic.html#.XoZ0OIhKiUk . Visualize this while I continue. I would envision the coverage area in my concept going a little bit more on the sides (the shield edges would go back a little bit further on the sides). Next, imagine that the brow area is a bit thicker; it will need to be in order to accommodate the features discussed above. It is hoped that it is not too thick. Whatever weight this involves will have to be counterbalanced with weight at the back of the head, where the band wraps around. Moving along, visualize the bottom and side edges of the traditional face shield. In my proposal, a border, or frame would come down from the brow band area and both sides (where the visualized edges are) and meet each other by following the horizontal edge of our visualized face shield. These parts of the frame would be of the same thickness of the brow band in order to incorporate its same features. Thus, we have a frame of sorts. Consideration might be given to the two side frames being hinged at a few points, in case the wearer needs to tilt his or her head forward. The air curtains and Far UVC would emanate from these frames, as will be discussed shortly. If a person has concerns about Far UVC shining on the side of their head, a fabric of some type could be extended down in a parallel manner inward from the side frames; an air current would keep it flush against the head.
Finally, we put together the key components. Far UVC would shine downwards in one continuous, highly focused curved line from the horizontal brow band area. Ideally, the light area here (and in the other parts of the frame) would be distal from the face and the air curtain would be more proximal to the face. This is because if Covid-19 drifts toward the wearer, it will be killed before being repelled by the air curtain. That would save someone else from exposure to live Covid-19. Consideration would need to be given to the vertical thickness of the illuminated area. We would need to determine how long an oncoming droplet from a sneeze, expelled, say, from six feet away, would need to travel through this curtain of Far UVC before being killed. As for Covid-19 wafting in the air, one could suppose that the thickness would be a bit less. This downward pointed band of light would terminate in the lower edge of the frame as described above. As for the air curtain, it would be positioned in the same manner as the just described for the Far UVC, but more proximal to the face. It need not terminate in the lower frame edge. It would serve to repel any Covid-19 which gets past the Far UVC light shield. As for the lower frame edge, which would have the same components as the brow band, it would act in the same manner. Except in its case the Far UVC and air curtain would point toward the chin or neck area. The side frames, also with the same capabilities, would be directed a very short distance to the side of the head. We therefore end up with a fully framed face. The wearer can communicate freely (eat too) and has enhanced protection.
In prior text I mentioned a hinging of the side frames. If the side frames are flexed, they would still give protection. The downward pointed Far UVC would not terminate in the lower, horizontal frame, but it would remain effective.
In this design, consideration might be given towards accelerating the air flow when one is walking or outdoors in a breeze. Some type of device which measures the extent of oncoming airflows could be considered; it might be able to make automatic adjustments.
As alluded to above, there would probably be a need for an over the shoulder power source and perhaps a air propulsion source.
Let’s say that this can indeed be constructed. If on the regular market it would likely cost in the four figures. However, a national government would be in a position to have it manufactured at a very low cost. It would be ideal if these could be mass produced and distributed to everyone. They should have individual registrations and if a person is caught with one that was not assigned to him or her, there should be a steep penalty. It could be required that entry to schools, businesses, health care facilities, etc. require a person to wear one of these in order to be admitted. In essence, we would need to adopt the mindset of the Blitz, as discussed above.