When it comes to disinfecting room technology, hospitals have been on the cutting edge for quite some time. Hotels, however, are newer to this game and could benefit from a bit of advice. To begin with, not every product labeled as a disinfectant is considered effective against COVID-19.
“It is very important to select the proper disinfectant that is effective against COVID-19,” says James E. Brown, MHA, Director of Environmental Services at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, New Jersey’s only specialty heart, lung and cardiac hospital, and an Alliance Partner at the Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. “It must be an EPA registered approved disinfectant for COVID-19 or envelope viruses and currently on the EPA Emerging Pathogen list found on their website.”
Additionally, it is “critical” that wiping cloths are changed frequently to prevent cross contamination, Brown adds. This means that many hospitals use disposable wipes instead of reusable cloths.
Hospitals realize, however, that even very thorough manual cleanings can miss some viruses. This has led them to adopt technologies such as UV-C lighting or electrostatic sprayers, and ATP testing to complement the manual cleaning process. Hotels, too, are beginning to add the use of these advanced sanitation technologies to their housekeeping roster.
Take for example UV-C lighting which has been proven effective at destroying the coronavirus.
“Using ultraviolet light to get rid of germs isn’t a new concept, as it has been used since the late 19th century,” says Mark Beeston, VP of Sales and Marketing at Vioguard. “UV light within a certain wavelength has the ability to deactivate microorganisms by acting on its DNA and RNA. And while pathogens can develop resistance to chemicals, they can’t to UV-C light. Chemical cleaners actually need to sit on a surface for two to five minutes to be effective, making them extremely inefficient for quick cleanings or the cleaning of several hundred items, like hotel key cards.”
For this reason, many companies are finding ways to incorporate UV-C lighting into the hotel space in unobtrusive ways. For example, Fortessa Tableware Solutions and Healthe partnered to launch Healthe for Hospitality, a set of curated lighting products and custom enterprise solutions. Hotels can implement Cleanse Portal, a free-standing walkthrough sanitizer (similar in size and shape to a metal detector) near entrances and other high-traffic areas such as hotel lobbies and restaurant dining rooms. Or hotels can install Cleanse Downlight, which combines general illumination with human-safe Far-UVC sanitizing light to clean air and surfaces. It can be used in high-traffic areas such as hotel guest reservation check-in areas or public restrooms. Or hotels can use the Cleanse Air-Sanitizing Troffer which draws room air through a HEPA/Charcoal filter, then exposes the air to UVA and UVC light that targets remaining airborne pathogens, achieving a 99.9% kill rate in the expelled air.
Hotels might also be interested in investing in UV-light emitting robots. The LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots have been in use by hundreds of healthcare facilities to disinfect their facilities as part of their comprehensive infection prevention program. Several hospitals have even published peer-reviewed studies showing 50%-100% reductions in their Clostridium difficile (C.diff), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and surgical site infection (SSI) rates after they used LightStrike robots and Xenex's recommended protocols for room disinfection. The Westin Houston Medical Center was the first hotel in the U.S. to utilize LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots to sanitize and disinfect its guest rooms and common areas to help combat the threat of coronavirus. Operated by hotel staff, the robot uses pulsed xenon (a noble gas) to create intense broad-spectrum UV light, unlike older technologies that use mercury bulbs (mercury is toxic) to create continuous, single spectrum UV light.
"At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it immediately became our focus, as an ownership group, to research and invest in state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, technology to protect our guests and set a new standard of sanitation within the hospitality industry," said David Alagem, vice president of Oasis West Realty (which owns the Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills). "In the spirit of today’s tech-centric culture, we pride ourselves on innovation and like to trial new technologies throughout our properties. The health and safety of our guests, and our team members, has always been our top priority. It continues to be our utmost priority, and that is why we’ve chosen to invest in these advanced solutions and new technologies, particularly the Xenex UV Lightstrike Robots.”
Additionally, companies such as EHC Global have launched LED UV-C handrail sterilization solution for escalators and moving walks while Proximity Systems and ENS Group have developed self-disinfecting point of sale products that can automatically disinfect surfaces during pre-set cleaning cycles. The built-in motion sensor not only shuts off the device after motion is detected to protect users, it also registers motion to start an additional cleaning cycle once the detected use has stopped. This consistent cleaning guards against the spread of harmful pathogens common to high touch surfaces. Use cases include check-in kiosks, informational kiosks, payment devices as well as computer keyboards and screens used by hotel staff.
And Vioguard makes two products that could be beneficial to hotel staff. The first is Defender, a self-sanitizing ultraviolet (UV-C) keyboard and trackpad that automatically disinfects the keyboard and trackpad after every use. The second is Cubby+, a mobile container that can accommodate items such as remote controls, hotel key cards, guestroom tablets, etc. and also disinfects the items using UV-C lighting.
Another technology gaining steam among hotel brands are electrostatic sprayers/foggers. Brands such as the Wynn Las Vegas, Hilton, The Shangri-La Group, HEI Hotels & Resorts, MGM Resorts, The Venetian Resort, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts have announced their intent to implement this type of technology.
But how do they work?
According to Pat Swisher, founder and CEO of Enviro-Master, a national health and safety company, its electrostatic sprayers are filled with a hospital grade germicide registered with the EPA. The germicide kills 99.99 percent of 47 different disease-causing pathogens, including coronavirus.
The machine – when turned on – “puts a positive charge on the germicide,” Swisher says. “Everything around us has a negative charge. Like a magnet, opposites attract – allowing the germicide to wrap itself around surfaces and get into spaces a regular cleaning or janitorial service could not. If that’s not impressive enough, the service has a residual germ-reducing effect of five to seven days.”
Enviro-Master works with a number of hotels and restaurants, including large national brands such as Texas Roadhouse and Chick-fil-a. Recently the company worked with Hash Kitchen, a trendy brunch spot in Scottsdale owned by celebrity Chef Joey Maggiore, after several employees were diagnosed with COVID-19. The restauranteur brought Enviro-Master in to disinfect and sanitize the entire facility. (Check out the Facebook video Hash Kitchen posted to see the electrostatic sprayer in use.)
Hospitals and healthcare facilities have also been using ATP testing (adenosine triphosphate) to monitor the amount of ATP levels on surfaces within their buildings. (Note: ATP monitoring does not test air quality or airborne pathogens.)
“ATP is the energy-producing molecule found in all living cells, including bacteria,” says Steve Nason, CEO of Hygiena. “Therefore, high levels of ATP indicate inadequate cleaning and a higher risk of infection.”
The coronavirus, like all viruses, is not a living organism, Nason explains. So ATP testing does not indicate if the coronavirus is present. However, the coronavirus does need an energy source – biological matter such as saliva or mucus – to survive. ATP testing determines if that biological matter is present on surfaces. With proper cleaning and the removal of organic material from high-touch surfaces, transmission of the coronavirus can be greatly reduced.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities often use ATP Systems to measure cleaning efforts on high-touch surfaces in patient rooms, including: bedrails, telephones, doorknobs, toilets, and patient bed buttons. They are also used to verify cleaning in ICUs, operating rooms and patient procedure rooms, on Mayo tables, and on trays.
Similarly, hotels can use ATP monitoring to see how well high-touch surfaces in hotel lobbies, event spaces, and guestrooms are being cleaned
“Guest room telephones, doorknobs, rails, tables, desks, toilet facilities can all be swabbed and measured for cleanliness,” Nason explains. “It can also be used in common areas, such as elevators (including buttons), lobby furniture, fixtures, desks, etc.