While masking was a critical component that helped us reduce the spread of the coronavirus, many who first proposed the use of masks back in March of 2020 are now using that same data to advocate for the soon-to-be end of preventative measures like mask mandates. (https://unchartedterritories.tomaspueyo.com/p/covid-end-game)
Simply put, in a post-Omicron world, many are saying the costs of preventative measures like masking will outweigh the benefits of taking those actions. Our institutions, and our restaurants and other foodservice operations, will be better served transitional back to pre-Covid processes. The reality is, no matter who is advocating for what, we’re likely to see a return to a more normal lifestyle in 2022, and there will still be a need to manage the risks of viruses and other airborne pathogens. Covid will continue to exist, and operators will be best served by continuing many pandemic-era safety measures into the future.
The bottom line is we need to make it easy to bring people back together while managing risk. Ideally, as time goes on, those actual risks will be reduced, but there will still be perceived risks, as well, whether they’re backed by data or not. In restaurants, it’s not just guests who might feel unsafe, either. It’s staff, those same employees it’s becoming harder and harder to find. And if the risk and fears stem from an airborne virus, and easy way to promote safety and peace of mind is to clean that air.
AIR CLEANING TECHNOLOGIES IN A POST-MASK WORLD
Even though we might be putting our masks back in the top drawer for a while, the ability to clean the air has both real and perceived value. Air scrubbing technologies can offer risk reduction without impacting other areas of an operation or the comfort of the guest or staff. In fact, studies show air cleaners can lead to the same risk reduction as having everyone in the room mask up. (https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.12.20062828)
There are different types of air purification systems, though, and not all are created equal. Filtering is common, and it works by collecting particulates that need to be regularly changed. In many cases, filters aren’t fine enough to remove ultra-small particles like the coronavirus.
Other types of air filtration use ions or oxidizing molecules. By blowing them into the room, it is claimed they will deactivate the microbes in the air. This is considered to be an emerging technology by the Environmental Protection Agency, and currently, there is a lack of research to support its effectiveness outside the laboratory. What the EPA does definitely state is that ozone and other similar technologies should never be used in occupied spaces.
And then, we have light. Ultraviolet light deactivates viruses, bacteria, or molds so they cannot reproduce by damaging the DNA or RNA that viruses need to replicate themselves. Viruses are killed without the need to change filters, and UV air purification can operate while people are in the room. Compared to other technologies this is the preferred method of air purification and is considered the gold standard by governments and other organizations around the world.
FOCUS ON THE AIR IN THE ROOM NOT MASKING IT AWAY
Bluezone by Middleby is a cutting-edge air purification technology that uses ultraviolet light to purify the air in the room. With a unit you can plug into the wall, operators can eliminate more than 99 percent of viruses, bacteria, mold, and other contaminants, making the space safer and providing peace of mind for guests and the staff who serves them.