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.
This concept ultimately concerns a way to make indoor environments “pandemic safe”, preferably under a yet non-existent certification or “seal of approval” system.
I will begin this presentation with a discussion of the existence of virucidal coatings in the perspective of their original intent; their application on various surfaces in the environment. I will also be discussing the types of handles that are encountered in the environment, with a focus on their design. Handles are the most predominant, likely-to-be-touched objects in the everyday, public environment. Also, further below I will provide information concerning potential approaches for fighting the airborne transmission of Covid-19.
Following the overview discussions on surfaces, handles and devices to help prevent the transmission of airborne Covid-19, I will get to the ultimate goal of this narrative: developing a mechanism for promoting their use within buildings and elsewhere. It is hoped that the above-mentioned applications will become commonplace in the indoor environment. Although the attainment of a heavily protected environment may not be possible during our encounter with Covid-19 in 2020, we might be able to attain the goal in later years prior to the commencement of another pandemic, perhaps helping to keeping it from getting a foothold in the first place.
Let’s begin with information on virucidal surfaces.
In the current situation with Covid-19, it has become difficult for people to buy hand cleansers and multiple gloves to carry along with them. Thus, when people go to work or shop and conduct other daily activities, there is a high probability that their hands will come into contact with virus laden surfaces and thus transfer the viruses to other surfaces (or themselves).
Keeping this in mind, the reader is invited to examine the links (below) which my casual research uncovered. As you will see, they discuss the invention by various entities of coatings for use on various items (handrails, medical equipment, etc.), which can essentially kill viruses on contact, or at least within a very short period of time. Other coatings of a similar nature exist or are currently being developed.
Although I have presented a concept in another narrative proposing the development of a glove with virucidal characteristics, the eventual coating of likely touched surfaces would augment the work of any gloves. If virucidal gloves are not developed, the coating of likely touched surfaces would still make a significant impact.
As an aside, it might not be possible to coat touch screens. In those cases, a stylus with a virucidal coating hanging nearby would circumvent this problem.
The key take away from the preceding is that surfaces for use in the public realm can be manufactured with virucidal properties or products can have virucidal coatings added to them.
Somewhat related to the topic of surfaces is the matter of handles. Handles are a major item that people can be expected to touch in the public realm. They are found everywhere, such as with the following: building entrance and room doors; grocery store freezer / refrigerator doors; office refrigerator doors; rest room doors; drop box handles, sink handles; toilet handles; cabinet handles; and so forth. The handles (or knobs) come in various types, as shown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_handle ; https://www.thespruce.com/select-correct-door-hardware-4125753 As stated in these links and discoverable in a basic internet search, the available types are: lever; pull (”U” shaped); door knob (round); and handset (thumb is used). Also used on doors are emergency push bars and flat push panels.
Various types of add-on or stand-alone devices have been made for use on lever and pull handles to enable use without the need of a hand grasp. Thus, there is less of a chance of contact transmission. Examples are shown here: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/03/25/hands-free-door-handle-coronavirus-ivo-tedbury-freddie-hong/ ; https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-52008745 ;
It should be noted that the add-on-devices could quite feasibly be incorporated into solid (“one piece”) designs from manufacturers. Regarding door knobs and handsets, it does not appear that anyone has come up with an approach to make them infection-prevention-friendly. The owners of buildings with such handles may prefer to keep them for aesthetic reasons, but be open to add-on adaptations during a pandemic. Door knobs could probably be addressed by a rubber-coated vice-like component to encircle the knob (locked into place) and attaching a lever/armrest in a manner similar to what is shown in some of the preceding links. Handsets could possibly be addressed with a lever positioned above the thumb receptacle which could be pulled forward with a forearm. This movement would cause a piece of the lever to depress the thumb receptacle. These are just rough outlines, I am certain someone could bring something like these concepts into existence.
In view of the preceding, we have options for making a major source of contact transmission in the environment safer for users.
Next, regarding a way to reduce the airborne transmission of Covid-19, there is the option of negative ion generators. In a nutshell, negative ions weigh down any particulates in the air (including microorganisms) and cause them to fall to the ground. Furthermore, there is research which indicates that negative ions can kill viruses outright. If the negative ions from negative ion generators can indeed have these effects, they have great potential for limiting the exposure of people in buildings to any airborne Covid-19 in the area.
The following are some pertinent links which explain the capabilities of negative ions:
Successful study with viruses: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep11431
Ionizer destroys acinobacter in hospital: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3228-air-ionisers-wipe-out-hospital-infections/
An aircraft ionization system: https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2015-10-09/ionization-system-removes-pathogens-cabin-air
Active against Salmonella: https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2000/mar/salm
A listing of studies compiled by a manufacturer: https://www.surroundair.com/negative-ions/
Effective against Newcastle virus: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2130090/pdf/jhyg00043-0066.pdf
Effective with viruses:
Role with antibody treatment:
Use in hospitals:
Example of Bipolar ionization:
Plasmacluster ions – effective against viruses:
A few available products:
Support in Scotland:
Nonthermal Plasma Reactor (Cold Plasma) – an advancec negative ion generator – Effective against viruses:
This discusses only ozone: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2020-02/26/content_75747237_4.htm ; https://www.ozonepartner.com/poultry
Thus, negative ion generators could likely have a predominant role in establishing an extremely safe public environment.
An additional approach to reduce the airborne transmission of Covid 19 involves the application of UVC light and/or Far UVC light. Both have strong virucidal properties.
UVC light has been used for many years to eradicate microorganisms from the air of buildings. Units are usually installed within ductwork, or on walls at least seven feet from the ground with shielding to prevent eye damage to people nearby (this is termed “upper air irradiation”). The wall unit lights point outward at an angle and upward, often towards a ceiling air vent. The following describes these type of arrangements: https://www.achrnews.com/articles/141736-how-hvac-can-help-prevent-the-spread-of-contagious-diseases . A problem with UVC light is that it can harm humans.
I have outlined elsewhere how UVC light can be expanded beyond the above, traditional applications within an indoors setting. I have also written elsewhere how Far UVC light, which will not harm humans and is relatively new to the scene, could also find a wide variety of applications in an indoor environment.
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 suggests the Far-UVC can be emitted by LED: https://www.news.ucsb.edu/2020/019860/power-light ; https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/uvglo-the-world-s-smartest-uv-c-led-sterilizer#/ ;
Now that we have an understanding of the tools which are available for use in indoor environments, we need to discuss how their use can be expanded.
We can begin by noting that despite their abilities, none of these approaches have been utilized to any significant extent. The key environmental changes that have taken place thus far are the following: (1) staff members performing consistent cleaning (i.e. shopping cart handles); (2) markings and directional indicators on floors to help with social distancing; (3) plexiglass barriers at cash registers; (4) separate entrances and exits;(5) limitations on the number of people to enter; (6) social distancing; and (7) mandatory mask wearing by entrants. Actually, #1- #3 are the only concepts which can be seen as involving a true environmental change of some sort. Thus, with all of the tools at our disposal, no changes of a truly environmental nature (surfaces, air) have been incorporated. The plexiglass might qualify, but it does nothing for everyone else in line. This all sets us up for potential failure, as in a resurgence of Covid-19.
In order to move along in a more proactive manner, I propose that the Federal government (or individual state governments) and/or private industry come up with some guidelines or “understandings” of what would constitute an extremely safe indoor environment. It is proposed that if specific indoor environments comply with certain parameters, they would qualify for a special seal or certification which could be publicly displayed. This would effectively allow them to operate in a “business as usual” mode for the remainder of Covid-19’s presence, or at the outset of any future pandemic. It would be in a public entity’s financial or public image benefit to obtain such a seal or certification. The only caveat in such situations is that they, and non-certified entities, might be required to have building entrants (customers, vendors, employees) wear certain items to gain entry (i.e., masks, sneeze catchers, virucidal gloves, negative ion headsets, etc.). Such requirements by government or a private entity will not have a bearing on this seal/certification program.
I will refer from this point on to this certifying body as a “Consortium.” It could involve either the government, a private group, or both working together.
The Consortium would need to establish standards of what would qualify as a truly safe indoor environment. For example, it could address: (1) Whether or not door (or other) handles which do not require hand use are installed; (2) Whether or not virucidal coatings are applied to all likely surfaces to be touched, such as door handles, countertops (where customers wait), card readers, thermostats, light switches, gas pump handles, shopping cart handles, door surfaces from waist to chest high (particularly in rest rooms), key pads, stylus devices for signing on a screen, table tops, parts of chairs, the containers used when going through a metal detector to hold metallic items, escalator “handles”, cash registers, line barriers (velvet rope devices), bank drive-in pneumatic tube canisters, rest room sink handles, broom handles, water fountains, product scanners, etc.; (3) Whether or not negative ion generators, UVC light, Far UVC light or negative air flow (not discussed previously), alone (excluding negative air flow) or in combination, has been established at a level of intensity, with proper spacing, which would truly clean the air; (4) Whether or not additional devices not focused upon here (i.e., plexiglass) have been installed.
Once standards are established and an entity passes an inspection, they would be certified and obtain all the privileges, mainly public gratitude and respect, which would come with it. Customers would be more likely to patronize such a setting and employees would have greater morale.
Concurrent with the preceding would be a similar understanding with manufacturers of the types of items that would be used indoors, as discussed above. Here, the actual items or products would receive a certification.
Any certified entity would be subject to surprise, unannounced visits to confirm their continuing compliance.
Although the certification concept has focused on indoor environments and the special devices which would be used in such settings to reduce the risk of infection, a similar approach, involving only items suitable for virucidal coatings and commonly owned by individuals, could be pursued. The primary beneficiary would be individuals, in the form of their health. Some of the items of interest can commonly be seen brandished in indoor public settings, such as cell phones, credit cards, wallets/purses, and house/car keys. There should be a focus on these, because these are the items which a person will bring back home from the public settings they have visited. Then you have other things such as: car door handles (and various parts of car interiors), home mailboxes, door handles for consumer (home) use, food holders for work lunches and so forth. Again, such items would need to be reviewed by the Consortium before they can use a certification seal.
Assuming that businesses, schools, stores, etc. are supportive of the concept, the matter of cost raises its head. One would think that the negative ion generators and light systems would be the most costly. Perhaps their manufacture and ready availability could be subsidized by the Federal government, in lieu of infrastructure spending which has often been discussed. Or, the devices could somehow be made available at cost. This is the aspect of the idea which presents the greatest burden. What would help would be studies by an impartial outside entity to determine what the true cost of a protective product is and what percentage would go beyond a reasonable profit into price gouging. It might be that the best product in one of the above-mentioned categories has a patent and, as a result, the manufacturer has an upper hand with regards to pricing. It should be impressed upon them that the establishment of a Consortium could bring them customers at a level far beyond what they could have expected otherwise. Perhaps that awareness could encourage them to be more open towards lower pricing.
Tax deductions for use of these devices could be considered. Or perhaps the Defense Production Act could come into play.
It is hoped that someone would be able to arrive at a proper solution concerning any price roadblocks.
Although not focused upon here, consideration should be given for requiring the above-discussed preventive measures be in place before future construction permits (for new commercial buildings) or business occupancy licenses are granted.
If a Consortium can be formed and a consensus reached on the various points as discussed above, we may start to see the gradual formation of indoor environments used by the public to acquire a considerable degree of protection from Covid-19 (if things are expedited) and any future pandemic. This, in turn, could greatly lower the need for any future shutdowns of the economy.