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Rely on science, not politics

by BRENT REGAN
| December 5, 2020 1:00 AM

Public health safety should not suffer from political ambitions.

Methods and procedures for dealing with COVID-19 have been evolving over the last nine months. The primary method to reduce infection has been social distancing and the use of facial coverings. Despite this, COVID-19 infections continue. Many who have advocated and practiced vigorous use of face coverings have ultimately contracted the virus. Why?

Experts say that viral transmission occurs when a cough or sneeze from an infected person sprays tiny droplets of virus containing fluid into the air. Depending on size, these droplets persist in the air for seconds to minutes before falling onto a surface. The droplets can be inhaled from the air or transferred by touch once they land on a surface. Some face coverings can reduce the emission and inhalation of these droplets, but the use of face coverings necessitates that a person touch their face more frequently; to put on, adjust, scratch and remove the covering. This face covering promoted contact transmission may explain the high infection rates of face covering users.

Contact transmission of the virus is the reason health officials universally recommend frequent hand washing and surface sanitization. Surfaces are everywhere and disinfectant wiping of table tops and door handles only address a tiny fraction of the problem. Anything you touch can become contaminated and items like skin and clothing are impossible to sanitize frequently by wiping. What is needed is a method of sanitization that is similar to the process of contamination. It makes sense that tiny aerosolized drops of disinfectant would follow the same paths as the virus to surfaces.

Last month, Lt. Gov. McGeachin asked me to attend a technical presentation on some new technologies to address the COVID-19 pandemic. These included; a rapid deployment COVID-19 patient care facility, a Portable Commercial Ultra Violet HEPA Air Filtration unit, and a walk through Surface Decontamination System.

The walk through Surface Decontamination System uses an FDA approved water based Hypochlorous (HOCI) disinfectant. HOCI was discovered in 1834 by French chemist Antoine Jérôme Balard as the infection fighting compound found naturally in the white blood cells of the human body. HOCI is generated on site by electrolyzing a pure saline solution. HOCI does not have an ongoing antimicrobial effect. In other words, once it lands on a surface, it reacts with any germs or organic matter on that surface and then immediately deactivates. This allows for an efficient sanitation process with no hazards to the environment as it is completely biodegradable. HOCI is recognized by the FDA, EPA and OSHA as non-irritant to eyes, skin, and the respiratory tract. Walking through the Surface Decontamination System is like taking a 10 foot walk on the beach during a foggy day.

Upon hearing about these technologies, Lt. Gov. McGeachin recognized that air and surface decontamination systems may have public safety application during the upcoming legislative session when legislators and visitors from all corners of Idaho converge on the Capitol building. Lt. Gov. McGeachin drafted and submitted a proposal to the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee for consideration.

Unfortunately, rather than evaluating the proposal on its public health merits and science, political opponents of the Lt. Governor and the media politicized the issue. Who cares about science and health when political points can be scored?

Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell claimed that the technology was useless and potentially harmful citing a study of “sanitation tunnels” used in China. In less than a minute, one can discover that these Chinese “sanitation tunnels” were tents with shower heads spraying a bleach solution. No, Ms. Russell, the Lt Governor did NOT suggest people breathe bleach, and quoting studies saying breathing bleach is bad does not apply to the proposed, potentially life saving technology.

Lawyer and candidate, Luke Malek, took to Twitter claiming “Does anyone want to tell McGeachin that COVID-19 isn’t transmitted through feet?” Really? When you take off your shoes, don’t you grab them by the heel? Do you then immediately wash your hands? Does anyone want to tell Mr. Malek that floors are not intrinsically sterile and the “5 second rule” isn’t a thing?

The proposed system to combat COVID-19 has been DEMONSTRATED to kill the virus on surfaces and has been issued safety certificates by the EPA, FDA, OSHA and others.

According to the FDA (October 2002): “HOCI has been tested against bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores. Freshly generated HOCI is rapidly effective (<2 minutes) in achieving a 5-log10 reduction of pathogenic microorganisms.”

It is at best unfortunate, and possibly professional malpractice to politicize, for personal gain, viable and affordable technology to improve the safety of the public.

Let’s put politics aside and stick to the science.

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Brent Regan is an engineer with over 42 years experience in the medical device field. He holds 13 patents for medical devices.