CHARLOTTE — When the Carolina Panthers welcome fans back to their stadium for the first time Sunday, precautions against COVID 19 include temperature checks, air monitoring, mandatory masks, social distancing and disinfection by a $125,000 robot.
Manufactured by Xenex Disinfection Services, a San Antonio, Texas-based world leader in the ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection for hospitals, LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots use pulsed xenon to create intense bursts of broad-spectrum UV light that quickly destroys viruses and bacteria on surfaces.
The robots require no warm-up or cool-down time and can disinfect an area in minutes, so the Panthers are able to disinfect dozens of rooms per day (per robot). The robots are already in heavy rotation throughout the stadium. They are used to disinfect meeting rooms, locker rooms, rehabilitation areas, suites, restrooms, offices, weight rooms, workout areas, and more.
The robots can kill viruses on surfaces, including countertops and computers, without “causing damage to equipment, furniture, clothing, and other items, according to the company.
The Panthers team is also using a LightStrike Disinfection Pod. The lightweight and portable containment unit harness the germ-zapping power of the LightStrike disinfection robot to quickly disinfect high-touch player equipment such as pads, cleats and helmets in-between practices.
Xenex spokesperson Melinda Hart tells WRAL TechWire that the company’s technology differs from older types of UV disinfection which have been around for decades. It uses more intense full-spectrum UV, including UV-C, which has a wide germicidal range. It also has the technology to ensure it hits angles and shadows.
Full-spectrum UV is important, she explained, because different pathogens are susceptible to different wavelengths of light.
Duke University Hospital did a study some years ago that found their UV system was completely ineffective against C. difficile, an all too common serious hospital infection following surgery. The Bon Secours Health System in Greenville, SC, is the only other Carolinas client for Xenex at present. The Xenex system knocks out C-Diff in three minutes, so hospitals run five-minute cycles.
To kill the COVID virus, though, requires only two-minute cycles, she said, so that is what the Panthers are running.
“Our goal is to make this the safest facility and stadium that it can possibly be and that’s why we chose Xenex,” said Eddie Levins, director of security and infection control officer for the Carolina Panthers and Bank of America Stadium in a statement.
“It was clear in our evaluations that Xenex provided the best UV disinfecting solution for us and allowed us to quickly and effectively sanitize our football areas and other areas throughout the stadium.”
He added, “We have worked since March to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan so that everyone would feel safe and comfortable returning to Bank of America Stadium and Xenex has been an important part of those efforts.”
Only 7 percent of stadium capacity is allowed according to NC rules, so fans will number just 5,250.
Healthcare facilities have published more than 40 peer-reviewed studies validating the efficacy of the LightStrike robot technology.
The company said it is the only UV room disinfection technology proven to deactivate Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.
In third party testing, the LightStrike robot achieved a 99.99% level of disinfection on surfaces against SARS-CoV-2 in two minutes.
Hart noted that it is also effective against staph infections, another plus for athletes.
Xenex is backed by well-known investors that include EW Healthcare Partners, Piper Jaffray, Malin Corporation, Battery Ventures, Targeted Technology Fund II, Tectonic Ventures and RK Ventures. It has raised about $91 million since 2012.