Screening, Tracking and Other Developments
An in-depth list of Coronavirus related technologies which may prove to be useful tools for venue operators when safely reopening.
Screening technologies are evolving quickly, which could be great news for venue operators. Part of safely re-opening is having the ability to do point-of-care (or point-of-sale) testing before someone enters your premises. Everyone realizes the need for reliable screening is vital, and the stakes are high.
Immunity = Opportunity
Immunity testing — serology testing — potentially holds the key: identifying whether someone who once had Covid-19 now has the antibodies that prevent the virus. So theoretically the individual is not contagious. The presumption is that people who previously had Covid-19 and recovered (or have received a vaccination once that’s available), are indeed immune. The CDC has been expanding testing for people previously infected to determine the spread of the disease, including testing of those who were asymptomatic.
The five-minute molecular point-of-care test.
A new option is being made available to combat the challenges of Covid-19 testing. Testing continues to be an essential priority — and problematic — for public health officials and healthcare providers. With both a shortage of tests and a prolonged delay for results, possibly a week or more, testing has been dismal at best. Now, a new test approved by the FDA for emergency use (an emergency use authorization or EUA) is coming online. It’s a five-minute test developed by Abbott Labs in March 2020, with negative results completed in about thirteen minutes.
And because the test can be used anywhere, rather than a traditional hospital setting, it has solid potential. What does this mean for venue operators? That molecular point-of-care (or point-of-sale) testing can be used to identify on the spot who can safely enter the premises. Molecular testing technologies help detect the presence of a virus by showing a small section of the virus’s genome and making that portion large enough for accurate detection. The result, as the test maker says, is “portable molecular testing expands the country’s capacity to get people answers faster.”
The need for Covid-19 testing: sooner than later.
The test, called the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, runs on the firm’s 6.6 pound ID NOW(™) platform, making it small and manageable to use on someone’s premises. The firm is producing 50,000 tests per day as of early April 2020, for use initially in the healthcare system. As these tests become available for businesses and venue operators, they’ll make possible a safe way to welcome customers.
For more information, go to abbott.com/corpnewsroom.
With the burden of responsibility on business owners, tracking could be a significant advantage. One product that has been developed in the wearable devices space is being launched by Bluetooth location startup Estimote. This represents what could be a sea change for workplace-level Covid-19 contact tracing. Leveraging its expertise, the company developed the product to diminish the spread of Covid-19. What’s on tap are a new range of wearable devices that add a measure of physical workplace safety to complement social distancing and isolation measures. 2,000 units were deployed in April 2020, with production ramping up to 10,000 in the near future.
The nexus of health and technology.
Called, appropriately, Proof of Health wearables, the devices are intended to provide reliable contact tracing: monitoring the potential spread of Covid-19 between people in a workplace setting. Helping employers detect transmission between workers to stop local spread is a boon to coronavirus risk management.
The device’s hardware has passive GPS location tracing and proximity sensors — powered by Bluetooth and ultrawide-band radio connectivity along with a rechargeable battery and built-in LTE. Included is a manual control to change a wearer’s health status. It records a range that includes: certified health, symptomatic, and verified infected. When someone updates the state to possible or verified infection, that immediately notifies others with whom the person has been in contact based on both proximity and location-data history.
Experience and expertise.
Having built programmable sensor tech for a decade, notably for large global corporations such as Apple and Amazon, the company is not new to the space. Co-founder Steve Cheney saw the application of the product to help combat the pandemic, although the company had been developing it for 18 months: as an employee safety or panic button for the hospitality industry. Further, because the wearables are LTE connected, they can be programmed remotely. An app is created remotely, programmable in the Internet of Things (IoT). Cheney is quoted as saying, “Who knew the virus would require proof of health vis-a-vis location diagnostics tech.”
Expanding its reach. Making an impact.
Further, the information is also stored in a health dashboard with detailed logs of possible contacts for centralized management. For now, that’s designed for a company’s internal use, but early indications are that a possible collaboration with the WHO or other health organizations to utilize the information for tracing with large enterprises and populations. The hope is that larger-scale contact tracing fed by sensor data could help provide new and improved strategies for better Covid-19 response.
User format options.
Ease of use: the device can be clipped to a lanyard to be displayed around someone’s neck, used as a wristband version with adjustable strap, or as a compact card format that could be carried with a security badge. The kind used for facility access control. The initial “pebble-like” design is already in production.
Previously proposed technology-based contact tracing solutions, including using existing data gathered by smartphones and consumer applications to monitor transmission, have privacy implications. Required use of a smartphone apparently isn’t viable for accurate workplace tracking in busy environments. It appears that Estimote can help employers avoid an “invasive” effort because the technology is part of a fit-for-purpose device. The data is shared only with the employer. Further, it’s in a form that the individual can remove, providing some control.
More accurate than human recollection.
Because human error is more likely, the wearable enables accurate tracking. “Typically, contact tracing relies on the memory of individuals, or some high-level assumptions (for example, the shift someone had worked),” said Brianna Vechhio-Pagán of John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab via a statement.
“New technologies can now track interactions within a transmissible, or six-foot range, thus reducing the error introduced by other methods. By combining very dense contact tracing data from Bluetooth and UWB signals with information about infection status and symptoms, we may discover new and improved ways to keep patients and staff safe.”
Vital updates from the field.
Although UV technologies have been hyped in the fight against Covid-19, only one type of UV can inactivate the virus and it’s very dangerous. According to Dan Arnold, who works for UV Light Technology, a company that provides disinfection equipment to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and food manufacturers in the UK, “you would literally be frying people.”
In other words, don’t attempt this idea anywhere. With anxious inquiries about using the technology on humans, Arnold and professionals in his field are careful to ensure the public heeds the warnings. UV equipment suppliers have reported record sales. The WHO has issued a serious warning against people using UV light to sterilize their hands or any other part of their skin.
Scientists have discovered a new type of UVC that is promising, less dangerous to handle, and yet still lethal to viruses and bacteria. Far-UVC has a shorter wavelength than regular UVC. Experiments as of April 2020 indicate it doesn’t harm human skin cells in the lab or damage their DNA but all indications are that more research is needed.
Arnold has a big caveat for the public: related UVC, from sunlight, “UVC is really nasty stuff — you shouldn’t be exposed to it.” This is because while it can take hours to get sunburn from UVB, with UVC rays it can take only seconds. Indeed, to use UVC safely, you need specialist equipment and training. Also, the majority of the UVC lamps on the market don’t use the far-UVC and it hasn’t been tested in humans. Only on cells in petri dishes. Which means this type of radiation won’t help you with coronavirus.
Also under consideration is the impact of sunlight to help combat the virus, but nobody knows how long it takes to deactivate Covid-19 or what strength you would require. The bottom line is that using sunlight to disinfect surfaces is not viable.
If you’re still considering UV as a solution, the experts are saying that disinfecting your skin with any kind of UV will lead to damage, and increase your risk of skin cancer. Finally, once the virus is in your system, no amount of UV will impact whether you’re infected. At the risk of stating the obvious, further research is required.