Casinos across the US started re-opening with the risk mitigation measures implemented ranging from no smoking and dining, mandatory masks, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols, as well as shields or barriers to ensure physical distance.
For Rivers Casino Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, among the measures implemented on re-opening July 10, there was one specific detail regarding its indoor ventilation system. The casino announced in its press release that it had recently upgraded its HVAC system, to include a patented technology, airPHX, that “continuously disinfects indoor air and eliminates coronavirus on surfaces”.
Moreover, the casino outlined its indoor air purification system, AtmosAirTM, “has proven to neutralize coronavirus by more than 99.9%”. What the press release did not specify, though, was which strains of coronavirus the system has been tested against.
WHO Admitted Virus’s Transmission in the Air
The announcement from the casino happened to be in that same week when the World Health Organization was forced to do a 180 and acknowledge the airborne transmission of the virus. Despite being for long dismissive of the possibility that the coronavirus is spread in the air, WHO informed in the announcement that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks in restaurants, choir practices, and fitness classes suggested the virus might have been spread in the air.
The latest update from the WHO created the need for businesses that operate indoors such as casinos to add to their reopening plans mitigation measures against the airborne transmission of the virus. But this is a gargantuan task, according to experts, due to the need for any ventilation system to stop a droplet or a particle in the time interval between someone breathing it out and someone else breathing it in.
Tony Abate, vice president and chief technical officer at the company manufacturer of the air purification system, explained that AtmosAir, being integrated into a building’s air conditioning system, adds ions with positive and negative charges which interact and decontaminate particles in the air and on surfaces, but admitted that the system was never tested against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease.
Lab Testing Variances
Lab tests to measure the effectiveness of the system were made using a different coronavirus, Abate continued, claiming it does not take away from the effectiveness of the equipment.
“Those viruses are all similar in structure, and the sanitizing effect would hold true no matter what strain of the coronavirus that you would use.”Tony Abate, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, AtmosAir
Indeed, some experts confirm that closely related strains of the same virus could respond similarly to disinfectants, hence the common practice to use a surrogate strain of a virus in lab testing. What matters most is that conditions in the lab replicate as much as possible real-world ones. And there are so many factors that can influence the outcome regarding air cleaning systems.
The multi-million dollar AtmosAir system was purchased by Rivers Casino in an attempt to mitigate the smell of cigarette smoke inside the casino, with the air cleaned through the recently added standalone units from airPHX. The website of the latter claims the device can eradicate pathogens like the human coronavirus, while in fact, it was never tested against it.