Editor’s Note: This is the third in a weekly series of articles examining how Hamblen County and the Lakeway Area can win the war on the pandemic.
Kevin Greene, head mechanic for the Hamblen County Department of Education, slowly moves through the school bus, creating a fine mist of disinfectant as he squeezes the trigger on a new piece of equipment being used to fight COVID-19.
It is an electrostatic sprayer.
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, so does the technology used to fight it.
In the Lakeway Area, school systems are using this technology, employing anything from special sprayers that use state electricity to machines that can detect whether a person is wearing a mask or not.
Jeff Seay, maintenance supervisor for the Hamblen County school system, said the school system is cleaning rigorously to fight the coronavirus.
One of the ways it is fighting is using electrostatic sprayers that shoot a fine mist out and is electrically charged as to comes out. It helps the cleaning liquid stick better on the surface, he said. They are being deployed in schools and buses.
“We bought every school one of those and the high schools we bought two,” he said.
The sprayers can come in different sizes from a handheld device to a sprayer that requires a backpack.
But the mission remains the same, clean anything and everything where kids may have touched.
Buses are sprayed with the electrostatic sprayer every morning when they get back from their routes, said Rodney Long, transportation director for the Hamblen County school system. They are also sprayed again in the afternoon with another disinfectant.
Seay said maintenance sprays school once a day when class is over with the electrostatic sprayer. Also, throughout the day, the school system cleans in between classes as they can using a hospital-grade disinfectant.
“It’s probably about four times stronger than what you can buy off Walmart shelves,” Seay said.
Other schools are doing what they can to fight COVID-19.
For Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Morristown, there investment in technology included buying scanners for all the main entrances that students and instructors must use before they enter the building.
Jerry Young, president of TCAT-Morristown, said the machine can check temperature and check to see if you are wearing a mask. If you are okay, nothing happens, but if you are not an alarm goes off.
“It’s the only thing that tells me I’m okay,” Young joked.
From the start of the pandemic, TCAT started deploying cleaning measures. Young said he thinks it has paid off.
Over the course of the last six months, the school has had only nine students test positive and four staff members, well below the average number of cases schools have been recording.
“We’re fogging and spraying,” he said.
He said they deploy a fog machine that allows disinfectant to stick to surfaces better just like the electrostatic sprayer.
“We’re deploying them at all of our campuses,” he said.
Walters State Community College and Carson-Newman College are also doing what they can to fight the novel coronavirus.
Debra Williams, spokeswoman for Walters State, said the school has increased its cleaning staff. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant, masks and gloves are available in every classroom.
“Cleaning has intensified both in areas cleaned and frequency,” she said. “For example, classrooms that were cleaned once a day may now be cleaned twice and then have the doorknob and other common equipment cleaned several times a day.”
She said common areas have been discouraged but those that are necessary (hallways) are cleaned several times.
“Our facilities management staff uses personal protective gear,” she said. “They always used gloves and now they wear masks. If the risk of exposure is increased in a certain, additional PPE is required.”
Carson-Newman has utilized a third-party vendor to fight COVID, said Kristen Early, spokeswoman for Carson-Newman.
Since July, Carson-Newman has contracted with Premiere for additional cleanings in high-use areas on campus. They have purchased multiple sizes of the electrostatic spray sanitation devices, she said.
The flyer details cleaning/sanitation schedules, which now include a weekend crew for residence halls, the student activities center and any other used spaces as varies from weekend to weekend.
Classrooms and shared spaces also have disinfectant wipes to wipe down desks and tables before and after each use.
Seay said that it’s a hard fight against COVID as school officials fight a virus that cannot be stopped, only slowed down.
“I’ve learned a lot from this,” he said.