Coronavirus: Cleaners with electrostatic sprayer ‘bombarded’ with service calls amid pandemic
After encountering a positive COVID-19 case tied to a customer last Saturday, a Hamilton bar opted to take on a disinfecting operation with a device that’s been hard to come by since the pandemic began in March.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Cause and Effect kitchen and bar on Stone Church Road East said the alleged infected patron was at the business between 8 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, July 25.
The bar’s response to the episode was to hire a Hamilton company that says it’s been ‘bombarded’ with calls since Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan.
“A month and a half ago, we were just getting bombarded with barbershops and hair salons,” says Mazin Kulom of Electrostatic Disinfection Services.
“We’re starting to get a lot of calls from daycare services recently right now and we are just getting tons of calls from bars and restaurants.”
Businesses typically associated with public gatherings, like bars, restaurants, and gyms have now been given the green light by Ontario to open as part of Stage 3 and that has kept partners Kulom and Peter Vlahic busy in recent weeks.
The pair, who were showcased in an Instagram post this past week by Cause and Effect, says they’ve been averaging 15 jobs a week spending roughly four to five hours per job cleaning businesses with a Pro Cordless Electrostatic Backpack Sprayer.
“It produces steam that’s statically charged as the spray exits the nozzle and it has a positive electron,” said Vlahic.
“The spray instantly latches onto surfaces and doesn’t create a solution that’s airborne for people to breathe in.”
The electrostatic sprayer, manufactured by Victory Innovations Co., is an aerosol system several manufacturers have begun producing to more efficiently clean surfaces amid the pandemic.
Vlahic and Kulom were in contact with the manufacturer prior to the pandemic to buy the sprayer as the key part of a forthcoming disinfection cleaning business.
“We’ve been in contact with them for about six to seven months, even prior to the pandemic happening, because we were going to get into the disinfecting field even before this,” said Vlahic.
However, the partners had to sit patiently for their order as the tool became a hot property when the pandemic struck.
“And the second that we made our order, somehow this pandemic ended up occurring, and the company sold out within a matter of minutes,” Vlahic said.
Bridget Hagan of Akhia Communications who works for the publicity firm that represents Victory Innovations says demand has certainly been high for the two models of electrostatic sprayers the company sells.
“They have seen a great increase from industries that range from hospitals to athletic facilities and schools,” Hagan said. “You know, they’re seeing a lot of that, as well as airports and retail stores.”
Public Health Ontario says it’s ‘not clear’ whether electrostatic spraying is more effective than conventional surface disinfection methods for COVID-19, but the agency says it is likely with the application of a standardized solution of concentrated germicidal bleach the method would also disinfect coronaviruses.
Clyde Coventry, a director with St. Joseph’s environmental services department, says the hospital invested in two Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayers which are used an ‘adjunct’ to their main cleaning processes.
“It’s an electrostatic sprayer, would you plug in the wall,” said Coventry. “There’s a chemical that you put into the system, you plug the trigger and a wand charges the particles and sprays the chemical all over the surfaces.”
Coventry says the hospital invested in the sprayers between February and March as they begin seeing the rise of COVID-19 in North America.
“It was introduced to me earlier in the year. We were looking at it. I wasn’t going to buy one,” Coventry said. “I did purchase one as we started to see Asia and the pandemic start to spread.”
The units by no means figure into the hospital’s primary method of cleaning as environmental services still relies heavily on fighting surface contaminants with a hydrogen peroxide disposable cloth technology which is applied by hand and air-dried.
Coventry says what it is used for is an extra cleaning measure in the evening.
“So areas like our assessment center where we are seeing high volumes of possible or potential patient traffic,” said Coventry, “What we do at the end of day when those areas are closed, we use the electrostatic sprayer as an additional disinfectant step.”
Richard MacDonald, Hamilton public health’s manager of food and water safety, says the sprayers appear to be effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in a restaurant setting assuming Health Canada approved chlorine, ammonium, or iodine-based solutions are used and that the product’s instructions are followed by the letter.
However, MacDonald says in a food service business removing debris should be the first step before applying a sprayer.
“Obviously warm water and soap are a really good as a start to lift and emulsify food particles or whatever is on the surface, and then apply the sanitizer for it to be the most effective plan,” McDonald said.
On Friday, Hamilton’s medical officer of health issued a letter to owners and operators of bars and restaurants in the city and reminded them of their ‘responsibilities and requirements’ with respect to public health.
“Restaurant and bar owners and operators have an obligation to ensure they are taking the proper measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said in a statement.
“This is particularly important given the cases and clusters resulting from bars and restaurants that have been reported in Canada and worldwide.”
Richardson went on to say physical distancing between tables, face coverings worn by staff and customers, keeping people seated and recording a log of customers were just a few of the obligations restaurants and bars have during the on-going pandemic.
Electrostatic’s Kulom and Peter Vlahic say they’ve made a significant investment in the sprayer not only for usage within’ their cleaning service but to sell as well.
“We’re in the process of updating our website right now to become more like a shopping site because we will be carrying the product,” said Vlahic.
By Don Mitchell