By Colleen Costello ’12, CEO and Co-founder of Vital Vio

In light of the spread of COVID-19, people are looking to understand what options exist to help keep themselves, their loved ones, and their communities safe. As a global leader in advanced antimicrobial technology, we at Vital Vio believe this is a critical conversation to have amid the current heightened awareness of the dramatic human and economic impact caused by microscopic germs.

While the leading minds in medicine and public health work to contain the spread of COVID-19, this situation reveals an enormous opportunity for all of us to take a more aggressive stance against the threat of germs. COVID-19 reminds us that we are a global community, and as such, it’s critical that we create a sustainable, scalable defense system that can pre-empt dramatic and reactive medical and community interventions. Eliminating — or at least reducing — the threat posed by bacteria and viruses needs to become a global priority to ensure a healthier world for generations to come.

In 2017, well before the current pandemic, the World Health Organization issued, for the first time in its history, a very clear warning that the threat of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” was growing. In 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added supporting data with a report on antibiotic resistance stating that 3 million Americans face antibiotic-resistant infections every year, resulting in an estimated 35,000 deaths. This statistic, in addition to the current situation, demonstrates that the approaches taken to combat illness need to be greatly strengthened.

This war on germs now extends beyond our medical community and into our boardrooms, our public places, our workplaces, and our homes. Yes, it starts with critical awareness and informed education about how not to transmit infections between one another. But it also demands a new set of tools for a multilayered defense system that exponentially improves upon intermittent cleaning, handwashing, and reliance on antibiotics.

Germs are getting stronger and more complicated with the growth of our increasingly global economy and our warming planet. Certain environments where people gather and where there are unacceptably high bioburdens — like subways, health-care facilities, and public gathering places — now need new approaches to be inhospitable to germs and harmful microbes.

Although there is no silver bullet to stop these germs, new innovations are being added to our global arsenal that can help keep us safer and healthier. Vital Vio’s continuous antimicrobial lighting is one approach in this arsenal that delivers continual antimicrobial cleaning action that goes beyond traditional, occasional cleaning. When the light is on, it continually makes exposed areas inhospitable for bacteria and other microbes to grow and become dangerous. This provides a critical no-labor approach to keeping our most important spaces better protected.

By adding continuous cleaning via Vital Vio’s LED light technology in a subway train, into schools and long-term care facilities, on a handrail, or inside an elevator button, we have the opportunity to advance how we deliver new, diverse, multilayered approaches to defending ourselves as our world changes.

There will never be a single solution to the health challenges we all face. But waiting for the next episodic emergency is not an option. The answer comes from both our own collective awareness due to the newest, most poignant reminder — COVID-19 — and acting now by embracing new approaches and ideas that are available today.