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Can cleaning tech make people feel safe at hotels amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Linda Laban
Special to USA TODAY

Understandably, people are nervous about leaving their homes for groceries or for a stroll, let alone traveling and staying in a hotel. But as confinement restrictions ease, many are itching to have a getaway.

And, after the unprecedented global spring shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic left millions of hotel rooms empty, the hotel industry is making all efforts to gain public trust and rebuild business.

Certainly, hotel cleaning protocols top that list and will be highly visible. Hoteliers want guests to see their efforts and feel confident and are promising deep cleaning,  enhanced cleaning, and retraining staff on proper cleaning techniques – even down to disinfecting key cards. 

But some are adding second-level super cleaning to their daily housekeeping.

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Troutbeck, a historic retreat set on 250 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley, flew into action during its closure, upgrading all of the resort’s HVAC systems with a new HEPA filtration system that includes UV light for extra germ-fighting.

“It is a medical-grade system with something like a 97% kill rate of airborne viruses and bacteria,” says Troutbeck’s owner, Anthony Champalimaud. “It’s also really good at eliminating odors, which is always nice,” he adds.

Retrofitting the system is in addition to implementing new protocols and increased staff training.

“We underwent a rigorous adjustment,” Champalimaud says. “Before, our managers were ServSafe trained, but now all restaurant and bar staff are,” he added.

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Many hotels are adding electrostatic disinfectant sprayers that allow for 360-degree surface coverage. Also, because the particles in the spray are positively charged, the cleaning solution adheres to surfaces, smothering and eradicating germs.  

“In addition to following all industry protocols and standards, we’ve introduced a number of enhanced cleaning and sanitization measures to help ensure a safe environment for our staff and guests,” said John Lombardo, general manager of the privately-owned Saybrook Point Resort & Marina in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. “We’re using electrostatic sprayer technology that’s been adopted by some of the world’s largest hotel chains and airlines to apply disinfectants. It helps the product to surround and cling to surfaces in ways traditional cleaning measures can’t.”

Saybrook Point Resort uses equipment from Victory Sprayers, whose website promises, “an eco-friendly approach to disinfection by spraying up to 65% less chemicals per square foot,” something that’s important to the waterside resort’s owners.

Some New England properties in the Ocean House Management Collection will add Molekule plug-in virus zappers, which use nanotechnology to destroy pollutants, including mold, viruses and bacteria.

“The Molekule devices provide an added layer of protection to both our staff and our guests,” says Daniel Hostettler, president and group managing director. “We'll have Molekule devices in all 49 guest rooms and 20 signature suites at the Ocean House, as well as all 31 guest rooms and four signature suites at Weekapaug Inn,” he said of the two properties that will add them before reopening in June. 

In Texas, the Westin Houston Medical Center hotel sprang into immediate action in March, adding two virus-zapping robots.

Westin Houston Medical Center’s West Terrace with views over the city at night.

Used in hospitals, the LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots, made by San Antonio-based Xenex Disinfection Services and costing about $100,000 each, emit broad-spectrum ultraviolet light to destroy viruses and bacteria within minutes. They do not replace the hotel’s regular cleaning: they go in afterward and provide a super-sterilizing second blast without added chemical risk.

“On one level, we have given everything a deep clean and increased the frequency of cleaning the public areas, but we further enhanced our routine by adding the two robots,” says Archit Sanghvi, vice president of operations for Pearl Hospitality, which owns and operates this Westin franchise.

Direct exposure to general UV light is dangerous to human tissue, so, after set-up, the robots work alone, overnight in the public areas and also in each guest room after checkout.

“It is an expensive investment,” Sanghvi adds, “but we know we made the right decision because this is going to be the norm, sadly.”

But do these cleaning measures actually work against coronavirus? 

Federal health officials have prepared a battery of guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The EPA has listed over 300 cleaning products that are safe for humans but effective disinfectants against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

But really, "it’s virgin territory for everyone," says Brad Rush, owner of Jan-Pro of Atlanta, whose employees clean a wide variety of buildings, from offices to fitness centers, schools and stores. 

Vetted products do not guarantee the disappearance of the coronavirus, but they can "help to reduce the chances of its transmission, especially from surfaces that people frequently make contact with," added Ogbonnaya Omenka, a public health expert and assistant professor at Butler University.

Contributing: John Bacon

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Summary | 7 Annotations
What is a 'deep clean'
2020/06/08 20:25
upgrading all of the resort’s HVAC systems with a new HEPA filtration system that includes UV light for extra germ-fighting.“It is a medical-grade system with something like a 97% kill rate of airborne viruses and bacteria,” says Troutbeck’s owner, Anthony Champalimaud. “It’s also really good at eliminating odors, which is always nice,” he adds.
2020/06/08 20:25
Many hotels are adding electrostatic disinfectant sprayers that allow for 360-degree surface coverage
2020/06/08 20:25
Some New England properties in the Ocean House Management Collection will add Molekule plug-in virus zappers, which use nanotechnology to destroy pollutants, including mold, viruses and bacteria.
2020/06/08 20:26
Used in hospitals, the LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots, made by San Antonio-based Xenex Disinfection Services and costing about $100,000 each, emit broad-spectrum ultraviolet light to destroy viruses and bacteria within minutes. They do not replace the hotel’s regular cleaning: they go in afterward and provide a super-sterilizing second blast without added chemical risk.
2020/06/08 20:26
Direct exposure to general UV light is dangerous to human tissue, so, after set-up, the robots work alone, overnight in the public areas and also in each guest room after checkout.
2020/06/08 20:26
 The EPA has listed over 300 cleaning products that are safe for humans but effective disinfectants against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
2020/06/08 20:26