Silver Diner restaurants using ultraviolet light to counter coronavirus

This air purification system is one of many wall mounted units in place throughout the diners. It’s just inside the entryway and next to the host stand.

A wavelength of ultraviolet light known to inactivate close relatives of the novel coronavirus is now an integral part of a cleaning system installed in Silver and Silver Diner locations across the D.C. region.

As of this week, Ultraviolet-C lighting will be used in all 20 Silver and Silver Diner locations. The germicidal irradiation system was installed in air conditioning systems, air purifiers and overhead, and previously proved effective in the fight against SARS, caused by a similar virus.

“UV-C used in HVAC systems inactivates viruses and kills bacteria,” said Chris Rawlings of Richmond, Virginia-based Veteran LED, which installed Silver Diner’s UV-C light-based mitigation efforts.

“The lights are mounted to the ceiling, and so when the lights turn on, that irradiance field covers as much area as possible, focused on the high touch, high traffic areas of the diner,” Rawlings said.

Because UV-C light is harmful to humans, the overhead lighting systems are on timers to only be used at night when the restaurants are closed.

Newly-installed air purification wall units use UV light, bipolar ionization commonly known as air scrubbing and hepa filters.

“There are multiple units that are installed throughout the diners. There are smaller units and there are some higher occupancy units that are installed front and center when you walk in,” Rawlings said.

Some staff members have also been trained to safely use handheld UV-C lights as needed when preparing for nightly closings.

“You hold it as close to the surface as possible, you wear UV-C safety goggles and a long-sleeved shirt, and we have little indicator strips that tell you that surface is sterilized,” Rawlings said. “It’s usually four to five seconds over each field — you slowly, in a sweeping motion, run it across high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs.”

UV light is used to disinfect N95 masks for reuse, and it’s used in some hospitals and 
on public transportation to decontaminate surfaces. Rawlings knows of some restaurants that have installed one or two light-based virus fighting measures; he believes Silver Diner is the only restaurant to implement such a layered approach.

“Kudos to them for really embracing the technology and being able to leverage proved technology backed by scientific research,” Rawlings said.

Much like elsewhere, all area Silver Diners have installed plexiglass shields and antimicrobial menus. They’re using an antimicrobial coating said to kills viruses for 90 days, have installed hand-sanitizer stations and are providing employees with masks and gloves.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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