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COVID-19 killing robots are on the loose

(TECH GADGETS) Robots are helping disinfect hospitals and airplanes and reduce contact between healthcare workers and infected people to slow down the COVID-19 spread.

xenex lightstrike

Don’t fear the robot takeover! What if the robots are here to save us instead? Xenex germicidal UV-light radiating robots may help save us from the COVID-19 pandemic. These no-touch disinfecting robots are already in use in hundreds of hospitals, and have been helping reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs) for years.

Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots can disinfect various spaces, including hospital rooms, aircrafts or larger public areas, such as schools or malls–and quickly. In fact, these Germ-Zapping Robots have been leading the way in fighting HAIs since the prototype was launched in 2010. They help reduce MERS and staph infections, and helped hospitals disinfect rooms and equipment during the most recent Ebola outbreak.

Two infectious disease epidemiologists, Dr. Julie Stachowiak and Dr. Mark Stibich, who earned their doctorates at Johns Hopkins University, came up with the idea for these no-touch disinfecting robots. The robots work by emitting pulsed xenon UV light that can disinfect a hospital room in minutes.

In an ideal scenario, the robots disinfect a room after a manual cleaning. However, with the high rate of infection to healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19, Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots can disinfect an area both before and after manual cleaning. They usually cost around $100,00 each, though in the long term they save hospitals money due to reduced HAI occurrences.

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The company reportedly is offering to lend the robots for free to select, high risk areas. CEO Morris Miller offered to lend one to disinfect San Antonio’s North Star Mall after a confirmed coronavirus patient was released, before having another test come back positive. She had gone to the mall in the meantime. San Antonio is not only the company’s home base, but also where Lackland Air Force Base is testing, quarantining, and treating patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Xenex and public health officials are also discussing how to get them to China and other places where the need is greatest. More than 500 hospitals already had these robots in use before COVID-19 reared its ugly, crowned head.

Another company with a similar concept, specifically targeted at disinfecting airplanes between flights, is Dimer UVC Innovations, with the GermFalcon robots. Dimer has offered their robots for free to at least one airline running international flights in its home base, Los Angeles.

Now that the virus has spread to several other countries, with new hotspots appearing weekly, both Xenex and Dimer are hopefully expanding these offers to help in the interest of public health. Imagine being able to disinfect schools, libraries, and office buildings as well as hospitals, clinics, and airplanes.

More traditionally-conceived service robots are serving to bring food and medical supplies to COVID-19 patients in China to minimize person-to-person contact. Vici is another robot, a telehealth device on wheels. Vici allows healthcare providers to communicate with and observe patients without being in personal contact. Reducing interaction with infected people is crucial. The tragically high rate of healthcare workers, especially in Wuhan, who contracted COVID-19 after caring for patients has made that clear.

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COVID-19 has led experts to strongly encourage social isolation as the safest, smartest way to avoid catching the novel coronavirus. Social isolation should also help flatten the curve, or slow down the spread enough for medical resources to keep up with need.

Bring on the robots, y’all. Modern problems require modern solutions, after all. So you’d better learn to speak robot – it’s time. BEEP BOOP BLORP – ZARRP.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

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