If real, achievable, disinfection measures increase confidence, the public will return.
People are placing health as a top priority. Almost 85 percent make their travel decisions based on health safety. Some 40 percent are unsatisfied with the communications they’re currently receiving about safety protocols according to PWC. Half of consumers are also willing to pay extra for more safety. To get the public back, business has to have high level safety protocols and make people aware of them.
The devastation to the hospitality industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic is illustrated in a survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Less than one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents are back to a minimum of 60 percent of their pre-COVID staffing levels and almost one-third (29 percent) are still at or below 20 percent staffing. More than half of the 600 hotel owners that responded indicated that they are now in danger of losing their property to foreclosure by commercial real estate lenders.
The cause of this devastating drop in occupancy is well expressed by Author Lindsey Danis, in her article for Fodor’s Travel: I’m an Airbnb Host and There’s No Way I’m Booking a Vacation Rental Right Now. Lindsey says: “I’m wanting to get back into travel, but Airbnb’s new cleaning protocols don’t make me feel any safer…ultimately, the new cleaning protocols are a bandage, not a solution.” Scrubbing with off the shelf cleaning products can easily miss areas and does not address a serious risk, contaminated indoor air.
Is there technology that really will protect customers, increase their comfort and feeling of security and bring them back while there are still hotels to return to?
Yes. There is a three-element approach that can be affordable, and importantly, works. Keeping pathogens from one guest away from the next guest (and your staff) will increase bookings. There are really three phases: clear the air, clear the surfaces, protect high touch areas.
In the New York Times July 6, 2020, Apoorva Mandavilli noted that mounting scientific evidence suggests that the coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale. Opening windows to let in fresh air can help dilute the concentration of particles but in inclement weather this may be impossible. Filtering indoor air with a HEPA filter rated MERV 13 or greater can remove viral particles. (Inquire with your HVAC service if this is possible). Ultraviolet light (UVC) installed in the ducts can also be used to reduce active viral particles. The closer an air interdiction is to the source in occupied spaces the less opportunity there is for infection. Portable air cleaners can help a high traffic area while a restaurant might want an installed intervention circulating and treating air upwards from occupants rather than laterally past other guests. In Nature April 2020, Yuan Liu, and others in an analysis of Sars-Co-V2 in Wuhann Hospitals found that that adequate room ventilation, open space and proper disinfection of toilet areas can effectively limit the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in aerosols.
In a ground-breaking study on COVID-19 transmission from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Dr. C. Brandon Ogbunugafor said: “It is not enough that individuals remain separated from other individuals during a pandemic like COVID-19, but also that individuals remain protected from surfaces where other infectious individuals may have interacted.” The Sars-CoV2 virus is known to remain viable on surfaces for some time. “A number of studies have been done. These show that you can detect the virus off of hard surfaces, public surfaces for as long as 17 days,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group. Surfaces can be disinfected manually, even soap and water will deal with the Sars-CoV2 virus but it is difficult to clean and keep clean all potential infectious surfaces! The CDC found that with post check out hospital room cleaning, which is generally higher effort than hospitality space cleaning, still 50 percent of surfaces went untouched.
A technology particularly applicable to hospital surfaces which also disinfects the air in unoccupied spaces is ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). UVGI is nothing new. Niels Finsen received a Noble Prize for his use of ultraviolet light against TB in 1903. For hospitality it has the advantage of quickly turning around a space and keeping any pathogens from previous occupants away from the next. Selection of equipment is critical because more power makes for quicker and more thorough disinfection while size and weight determine portability and ease of use. A typical hotel suite can be disinfected with three units in as little as twelve minutes. The American Chemical Society recently gave a strong endorsement of UVC disinfection: “Due to the urgency to act on a global scale, we advocate for one measure that is particularly efficient, easily deployable, and economically affordable: virus inactivation by ultraviolet light.”
Keeping surfaces from rapidly becoming re-infected with pathogens after disinfection is the purpose of surface antimicrobial protectants. Katherine D. Ellingson and others in a paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases Oct 2019, found that statistically significant reductions in infections and environmental bioburdens occurred in rooms receiving the antimicrobial surface coating, suggesting the potential for improved patient outcomes and persistent reductions in environmental contamination. These coatings can minimize bacterial survival on surfaces for weeks by bonding to the surface and creating a spikey antimicrobial barrier with a molecule known as an organosilane which disrupts the cell wall of bacteria or the lipid coating on soft viruses such as Sars-CoV-2. Applying one of these organosilane surface protectants can keep high touch areas such as counters or doorknobs low in pathogen buildup after disinfection.
The Plan in Brief
- Upgrade your HVAC filters to 13 MERV, if practical. Consider adding in-duct UVC. Add fresh outdoor air to your HVAC stream (discuss these with your HVAC professional) and ventilate rooms with open windows when possible. Consider in-room air cleaning units that use HEPA Filters (MERV13+) with or without UVC to clean high occupancy areas near the source of possible aerosols.
- Use UVC sanitization between occupants in rooms to keep pathogens from an earlier occupant from affecting the next. In public restrooms, an infection problem area, consider an installed UVC disinfection device which cleans the air and uses motion detection to activate surface disinfection when unoccupied.
- Use an organosilanes surface antimicrobial protectant on high touch surfaces to keep contamination low.
- Advertise and promote your high-level protocols to encourage client confidence in your facility and increase occupancy. Be an optimally safe facility.
My company, Spectrum UVC, was formed in March of 2020 by scientists and businessmen, many of whom were immune compromised or had a family member who is. We do contract disinfection and represent select effective products to help a facility design a custom biosecurity plan suited to their specific needs. Minimizing infectious transmission and increasing safety for staff and clients instills confidence and increases business opportunity.