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Vegas-area schools using UV light for COVID-19 disinfection

August 27, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The nation’s fifth-largest school system has begun using ultraviolet light as a classroom germ-killer in the battle to stop the spread of COVID-19 in and around Las Vegas.

“This doesn’t have any chemicals. It’s just light,” Grant Morgan, chief executive and co-founder of Utah biosafety startup R-Zero told reporters Wednesday during a demonstration of the disinfection system at an elementary school in suburban Henderson.

The blue-light-emitting tower can disinfect a 1,000-square-foot (93-square meter) indoor space in seven minutes, destroying more than 99.99% of surface and airborne pathogens, Morgan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It is designed to be used while a space is unoccupied, but has no lingering effects when people enter a room after treatment, he said.

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The Clark County School District bought one Arc unit for each of its 372 campuses using $7.4 million in federal coronavirus relief money to cover the $20,000 per-unit cost, the Review-Journal said.

The district has more than 310,000 students. Classes began Aug. 9.

R-Zero Systems Inc., based in South Salt Lake, Utah, launched early in the coronavirus pandemic and is working with hotels, restaurants, corporate offices and more than 100 school districts nationwide, Morgan said. Records show R-Zero registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in September 2020.

Jeff Wagner, Clark County schools facilities chief, said the units won’t be used in every classroom every day but might be used for rapid response in case of outbreaks and to augment regular custodial cleaning.

He said they might be used multiple times a day in restrooms and school health offices.

The idea is to disinfect a few classrooms at each school each evening as part of a “layered mitigation strategy,” Wagner said. “There is no silver bullet that is going to make a building 100% safe.”

The unit emits ultraviolet C light — rays with a wavelength of between 200 and 280 nanometers — in an empty room with the door closed. A bilingual placard on the door warns against entering the room.

The industry is not regulated, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls UVC a known disinfectant for air, water and nonporous surfaces that has been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis.

Recent studies have indicated effectiveness against the coronavirus, the FDA said.

It also noted reports of skin and eye burns resulting from improper installation of UVC lamps in rooms that humans can occupy.

Morgan said the R-Zero provides users with virtual and in-person training and has safety mechanisms including a shut-off feature if someone walks into a room when it’s running and a 30-second countdown before a cycle begins.