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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines this week on how schools, businesses, and other venues can reopen as the coronavirus subsides.
Already Washington politicians like Senator Chuck Schumer are crying cover-up and demanding the agency release its earlier 17-page draft guideline, which they claim was held up by the White House.
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President Trump’s critics imply that the draft guidelines were too rigorous and the president is making safety a low priority.
The real problems with the draft guidelines were that they took a one-size-fits-all approach despite the huge differences between rural counties and dense cities like New York and that they were outdated.
They could have been written 50 years ago, ignoring technologies available now that can control the spread of disease and make returning to work or school safer. The final guidelines are shorter, but still a half-century behind the times.
Agency guidelines for schools and offices, for example, recommend placing desks six feet apart and encouraging frequent hand hygiene.
Fine, but the agency should also be informing employers and school administrators of the many other tools available. They could upgrade to antimicrobial surfaces, including doorknobs, computer keyboards, handrails and other frequently touched surfaces.
Numerous studies show how viral traces deposited on a doorknob can be spread by touch, infecting many people in just a few hours.
Copper naturally destroys viruses and bacteria. Several manufacturers produce molded polymer products embedded with copper, including desktops, keyboards and chair arms.
Antimicrobial coatings can also be painted on existing floors, furniture and equipment. All of these high-tech approaches are already used in hospitals. Now is the time to inform the public about their usefulness in combatting the coronavirus.
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The CDC also recommends that schools, offices and other venues open windows and doors to increase air circulation.
Research finds that air conditioning can spread viral droplets from an infected person to other people across the room, depending on the direction of the airflow. Bringing in fresh air is better.
Makes sense, but opening the windows is not always an option. The agency should at least mention that there are more effective options available, including continuous, nontoxic disinfection devices that can be installed in the HVAC system.
These technologies are already used by professional sports teams in their locker rooms, and by manufacturers and hospitals. They deactivate viruses in the air and reduce traces of virus or bacteria on surfaces.
The side benefit is a healthier workforce and lower absenteeism even if the coronavirus fades soon.
The CDC guidelines never once mention public restrooms. But reducing the risk of viral spread when toilets are flushed is important. The key is to be sure all toilets have lids.
Research indicates that coronavirus is carried in feces. When a toilet is flushed, the virus can become aerosolized. New findings in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases suggest the virus is found in heavy concentrations in restrooms.
President Trump has built a huge force of private sector companies to help with ventilators, masks, therapeutics and hopefully vaccines.
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At his press conferences, he stresses the importance of private sector innovation and capacity to beat the coronavirus. Now is the time to take the same approach in reopening America – deploying innovative technologies.
That is why the CDC’s current guideline should be shelved. It’s lacking in this approach. And no wonder. Federal regulators are free to talk with university scientists or government scientists any time. But scientists who work for industry have to wait for “vendor day.” The result is a federal bureaucracy literally unaware of what industry has to offer.
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