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Op/ed: How to Stop Superspreader Events Without Masks

Germicidal Ultraviolet Light Can Kill Airborne Viruses Indoors Before They Infect, Public Health Researchers Say

By Donald K. Milton, Edward A. Nardell and David Michaels

Photo illustration of UV light and coronavirus

Installing equipment to kill airborne respiratory viruses with UV light before they cause infections can make mask-free indoor gatherings safer, according to a new essay in The New York Times by a UMD public health expert and colleagues.

Photo illustration by Shutterstock

Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 superspreader events have engulfed jails, political rallies and Mardi Gras festivities; scores of Washington’s elite gathered at the venerable Gridiron Club Dinner were infected earlier this month, including the speaker of the House and Cabinet members.

Virus-plagued public events needn’t be part of our collective future, according to a new op/ed in The New York Times by airborne infectious disease experts Donald Milton, a University of Maryland professor of environmental health, Edward Nardell of Harvard University and David Michaels of George Washington University.

There’s a better way to hold indoor events without masks, and it doesn’t rely on vaccines and rapid tests. Vaccinations can prevent the worst possible outcomes of COVID-19, but cannot always prevent infections. Pre-event testing is imperfect and to be most effective, people need to test right before entering an event.

Putting this much of the onus of infection control on individuals is both unlikely to work well to prevent superspreading and also lets hosts of large events off the hook for keeping their attendees, workers and others safe. Instead, there are ways that building owners can make indoor environments safer by disinfecting indoor air. One of the best technologies to do so—germicidal ultraviolet light—has been studied for decades and can now be used safely.

Read the rest in The New York Times.

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