April 4, 2020
The Sooner We Take Action, the Sooner We Can Resume Our Lives
Far-UVC will save lives and allow people to continue to live together and care for one another
By Matthew Putman
Total self-isolation stunts progress and threatens human connection. Quarantine is only a temporary life-raft, not a long-term solution. As scientists, engineers, and business leaders we are inventing our way out of this impasse with strategy and ingenuity. This leads to the urgency of planning and scaling production for the wide-scale implementation of antiviral far-Ultraviolet light-emitting diodes in the UVC range. Far-UVC is not just an emergency band-aid. Ubiquitous, repeated use of germicidal UVC is a way to reduce the viral load permanently, eradicating germs on surfaces and allowing humans to gather and work together safely. Far-UVC will save lives and allow people to continue to live and care for one another.
While flattening the curve through quarantine is effective at slowing the spread between humans at the apex of contagion, it does not address the long-term public health, infrastructural, and scientific questions at the heart of this and future viral outbreaks.
The CDC points to COVID-19 residing on surfaces and spreading through respiratory droplets, through contact, and through fecal contamination, not through airborne contagion. Killing the virus on surfaces where it can spread is key. Ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs), which emit light in the far-UVC range, are the best way to deploy UV light against the COVID-19 virus.
The scientific community predicts a second wave of novel coronavirus. Medical professionals on the frontline in China report that this second wave has already arrived. If manufacturers, engineers, researchers, governments, and grassroots movements work together to bring far UVC-LED to production scale fast enough, they could prevent this wave from hitting the U.S. This could realistically be done in the next 2-4 months.
In the first stage, targeted use of this disinfection tool means safer hospitals and easing social distancing restrictions in the aftermath of the first wave of novel coronavirus across the world. The immediate and widespread implementation of far UVC-LED lights for disinfection and decontamination in public and private spaces will mean greatly reducing the viral load and will prepare us for future outbreaks.
The manufacturing process can be optimized using artificial intelligence. This would make far UVC-LED lights less expensive and easier to implement than past mass medical efforts, such as the polio vaccine.
Practical implementation of far-UVC would take several roll-out stages:
- Cleaning equipment and shared spaces in field hospitals, clinics, urgent care facilities, and emergency rooms with targeted far UVC-Light would ensure patient safety. Now, patients with low blood-oxygen levels who are admitted to overcrowded hospitals must weigh the risk of secondary infection. Implementation of germicidal far-UVC light would increase the patient’s confidence in the safety of these facilities, allowing vulnerable patients to receive expert care rather than being isolated. In a triage situation, and in healthcare facilities in general, this would promote short time periods for scaling and implementation beginning immediately across the board.
- Current evidence points to COVID-19 residing on surfaces and spreading through respiratory droplets, through contact, and through fecal contamination, not through airborne contagion. We must immediately implement targeted far UVC-LED lights in public restrooms, even if turned on only in critical areas and avoiding direct contact with skin. Anywhere where surfaces are shared must be cleaned (toilets, floors, sinks). Public restroom hand dryers are of particular importance because of atomization that spreads viral and bacterial agents.
- Part 1: Wide implementation in facilities in which food is stored, grocery stores, warehouses for delivered goods, manufacturing spaces, transportation vehicles, and other essential workplaces: this will allow essential workers to continue to do their jobs safely during viral surges. Part 2: Sensitive areas in all workplaces so the greater population can safely return to work.
- In heavily trafficked public areas such as schools, courthouses, concert halls, restaurants, hotels, libraries, banks, and museums, pathogens are transferred through surface contact. In addition to deep cleaning, UVC lighting must be implemented on shared surfaces and in targeted points of interaction where risk of viral spread and transfer is high (such as menus, countertops, ticket counters, cooking areas, credit-card readers and ATMs, cashier machines, under heat lamps where food sits).
- Private homes: Using far UVC-LED diodes to clean a room after a death in the family or household from COVID-19 or to clean the bedroom, bathroom, and the objects used by a sick member of the household will reduce the home’s viral load and allow other infected family members to go on living in the home safely. At this time, if one family member or household member is infected, the entire household is deemed infected and it is likely that everyone falls ill. Far-UVC LED could prevent this and allow household members to care for sick members who are shedding the virus while in quarantine together. This leads to a higher survival rate for those infected and a slower spread. Far UVC-LED germicidal will reduce the viral load in the lungs of patients and in patients’ systems. Sanitized living spaces and immaculate surfaces lead to a reduced total number of viruses present in homes and human systems.
As our understanding of the virus progresses, the world will change in ways that force us to find our resilience within, evolve our behaviors, and become more cognizant of our well-being. We do not have full control over nature and over viral mutations, but through the use of far UVC-LED, we can create controlled environments in which humans can safely congregate, heal together, and interact. We need to protect and monitor our physical health as individuals and communities.
Let’s look to past solutions to pandemics such as quarantine measures to inspire innovation and lessons for how to secure our way of life in the future, not as the only way forward. Scientific invention must be driven by a humanistic impulse. We are inventing our way out of this psychological, social, and health problem as we invent our way out of other challenges.
We are in a climate ripe for invention and innovation. The creativity, energy, expediency, and intelligence we bring to this battle will help us save lives today and tomorrow. We can prevent future generations from confronting new and seemingly impossible health challenges now. The scaling and immediate implementation of UVC-LED as a ubiquitous germicidal will change the way we confront viral outbreaks and sanitation forever, creating a safer world.
Image: People wearing face masks walk down a deserted street in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Arek Rataj / AP