Omaha businesses try technology as tool to fight COVID-19

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 11:23 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Several area businesses are using technology to fight the spread of COVID and other viral infections.

But does it work?

“It’s a means to create safer and cleaner air ...”

This small computerized box could help prevent viruses from spreading indoors. It’s called needlepoint bipolar ionizaton and taps into a forced-air HVAC system.

Brad McKewon of Mechanical Sales Inc. says the system filters dust, pollen, odor, and even microscopic viruses like COVID-19 from the air.

“We are releasing positive and negative ions in the airstream,” McKewon said. As the ions come into contact with viruses and pathogens, they are rending the surface proteins inactive. When they become inactive, they are unable to spread or infect.”

The neutralized microscopic particles then attach to each other, making them easier to catch in filters.

“As these particulates cluster together and make them larger with the return air system, they’re more easily filtered out.”

So how effective is it?

6 News found a study by Innovative Bioanalysis and a statement from the EPA, calling needlepoint bipolar ionization an emerging technology that shows promise in laboratory settings. Both state that more research is necessary.

There are detractors.

A professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University tells NBC “most studies are performed under conditions that don’t fit real-world situations,” adding, “Many in the scientific community are ‘skeptical.’”

But, for the Landmark Building owner, potential benefits outweigh any skepticism. They’re installing the system right now, before the dual purpose hotel and office building opens later this month.

Jason Fisher, president of the Lund Company, said, “As we were working with our team, with the hotel and with COVID going on and even in our offices, were exploring the best opportunities to make places safer.”

6 News asked, “Was it kind of a no brainer?”

“I think it was,” Fisher said.

Cost varies based on available HVAC systems and coverage space, but these boxes easily attach to any forced-air system.

It’s the latest effort to ease the worries of those working or spending significant time in indoor spaces.

“Everyone is concerned about air quality. COVID-19 has taken that from being an important topic to the number one topic. So as individuals return to work, facility managers and owners are looking for options to help their employees and their customers feel safe.”

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