Many office buildings’ back-to-work strategy during the coronavirus pandemic has centered on frequent cleaning of surfaces. Yet, because of how the virus works, we know that likely isn’t enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The virus was originally thought to be hand-to-mouth, from surface to hand to mouth, transmission from one person to another,” Dr. Gene Overholt said. “But recent medical literature now almost conclusively says that the majority of the spread is through the air.

“We now know, with a sneeze or a cough, even regular talking and certainly loud talking, we’ll see the virus expelled from the person in small droplets, some very small, some a little larger. The large droplets settle on the surface, and the smaller ones stay suspended in the air for a number of hours.”

That poses a big challenge for traditional cleaning products, since they’re able to clean things like doorknobs, tables or elevator buttons but not the air.

“The traditional chemistry companies don’t think of the air as something you can deal with,” Ionogen CEO John Shanahan said. “It’s a mechanically complex piece, because either I make a poison or I make a filter, and either one is not going to solve the problem of COVID hanging out in the elevator lobby of a bank building. We must have another way to put something in the air, leave it in the air and be effective at killing COVID without the side effect of killing us.”

Shanahan and Overholt are testing a non-toxic hypochlorous solution that would be put into the air by a process similar to a humidifier and may be ready as soon as later this month.

“Our goal is to allow business to get back to business in as normal a way as possible,” Overholt said. “We’re all anxious to get back, but it’s got to be done in a safe, effective way. This dry fogging introduces that way.”

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