This One Thing Could Keep You Safe From COVID-19 in Any Indoor Space

A germ-killing tactic long used in hospitals might help keep you safe in other places as well.

As medical and public health experts continue to learn more about the coronavirus, we're understanding what sort of environments put us at the highest risk. And the answer is clear: indoor, poorly ventilated, and crowded places. As a result, restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, and even mass transit systems are looking for a way to open and combat the spread of the COVID-19 contagion to keep consumers and patrons safe. The latest experiment? Ultraviolet light.

Hospitals have long used far-ultraviolet light to kill airborne germs, emphasis on the far because there is an important distinction in the types of UV light. Near-UV light is also known as "germicidal ultraviolet light," and it can be a health hazard to the skin and eyes. By contrast, far-UVC light also efficiently kills pathogens without harm to exposed human cells or tissues.

Recent research in particular has shown that far-UVC light can efficiently and safely inactivate airborne human coronaviruses.

As a result, many businesses are installing UV lighting devices in order to make enclosed locations safer for consumers and staff members alike. The famed Magnolia Bakery in New York City is installing an ultraviolet ceiling light in an effort to keep shoppers and staffers from contracting the coronavirus. In an interview with the New York Post, Chief Baking Officer Bobbie Lloyd said, "We wanted to make sure the staff has the confidence that they're safe and customers have the confidence that they're safe."

Retail giant Amazon is using an UV-emitting robot device to disinfect its warehouses, which could one day be used in Amazon-owned Whole Foods, too, as a recent 60 Minutes segment revealed. And in Singapore, a shopping mall is deploying a smart robot to fight the novel coronavirus with UV light, too.

Last, but not least, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has plans to install UV lighting into subways and buses for the very same reasons. During a recent press event, the MTA revealed it had purchased 150 of these UV light devices from a company called Puro Lighting for $1 million dollars—each one costing more than $6,500—for a three-and-a-half-week pilot program.

The MTA is testing the devices that emit pulses of ultraviolet light to zap the virus, leaving subways and buses disinfected. Puro Lighting's co-founder Webb Lawrenc told NY1 that the device is portable and can be used in mass transit. "You can get it in and out of tight spaces, as well as, because of the size of it, you can permanently install it in, let's say, a locker room, or an operating room and you can do nightly disinfections on demand," Lawrence said. And for more ways to fight the coronavirus, check out 13 Safety Precautions You Should Take Every Day to Prevent Coronavirus.

Watch a promotional video of the UV test from New York City's MTA below:

Filed Under