While others may be trying a flurry of disparate approaches, one Michigan-based operator is banking on ultraviolet (UV) light as a mitigation tactic against COVID-19 at its long-term care facilities.  

“It’s a pretty expensive investment, but [we] felt it was necessary for the safety of our residents and staff and anybody that visits,” Michael Perry, chief executive officer of NexCare Health Systems and the Wellbridge Group, told McKnight’s

“If we can put together a program that creates a safer environment for those at our facilities from infection spread — whether it be coronavirus, flu or other viruses known or unknown — that it’s just the right thing to do,” he added. 

The company is installing UV lights in each facility’s heating and cooling (HVAC) systems. The goal is to use the UV lights to sanitize the air as it circulates through the HVAC system and is recycled back into the facility. The project costs $30,000 to $40,000 for their facilities, Perry said. 

The UV light will purify the air and kill airborne pathogens and in turn help eliminate the transmission of illnesses like COVID-19, explained Eric Hansel, president of equipment installer Expert Lighting Group, in a statement. Hansel noted that cost is going to very per facility and industry wide, people should expect that it would cost roughly $2,500 to $4,000 per air handling unit in each facility. Facilities will also vary in the number of units. 

Expert Lighting Group and NexCare
assessing one of its facilities as part
of the project.

“In many cases, this technology is installed into air handling units or the existing air ducts. That strategy allows for the air to be cleaned continuously. Employees and visitors won’t even know that it’s operating throughout the building,” he explained. 

A June study published in Scientific Reports found that more than 99.9% of seasonal coronavirus present in airborne droplets were killed after being exposed to a far-UV light, which is safe to use around humans. The study also noted that a conventional germicidal UV light is often used to disinfect unoccupied spaces, like empty hospital rooms, Science Daily reported. 

“We wanted to capture disinfecting air as it traveled throughout our facility,” said Perry. 

“There will be studies done down the road on how effective it is but we don’t want to wait around for that,” he added.  “We wanted to have a comprehensive plan and this was included in that.”

NexCare is starting the installation process with three facilities and hopes to be done with them by the end of August. Overall, Perry said he expects all of the company’s 26 facilities will be completely outfitted within the next three to four months. 

The company also has researched and implemented other infection control solutions during the pandemic. Perry said that regardless of what strategy providers take, it’s important for them to do their homework and act fast. 

“We’re aggressively moving forward so that whatever measures we put in place will start to begin to create a safer environment,” Perry explained. “The sooner the better.”

“I’ve talked to other leaders and they’re doing some different things. We’re hearing ideas from temperature scanners to UV lights to electrostatic disinfection to ozone disinfection. There’s a lot of different things out there [that providers] can do.”