Thermo Fisher Scientific also piloted the samplers in a Covid-19 field hospital in Worcester, Mass. The hospital deployed the devices in patient care areas, where the virus was expected to be found, and in staff break rooms, where it was not.
“Our cold zones were indeed cold,” said Dr. John Broach, an emergency physician at UMass Memorial Medical Center and the medical director of the field hospital. “And our hot zone had heavy contamination, which was expected.”
Thermo Fisher Scientific, which will focus on hospitals in the first phase of its rollout, says other health care facilities could use the samplers to make sure that their Covid protocols are working — and that the virus is not making its way out of patient rooms.
“We see the facilities asking, are their scheduling and pre-screening activities effective?” said Mark Stevenson, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Are their cleaning and ventilation procedures adequate? And consequently, can I give my patients confidence in their visit to the facility?”
Of course, detecting the virus in the hospital room of a Covid-19 patient is one thing, said Alex Huffman, an aerosol scientist at the University of Denver: “It’s another step to go into an environment that likely has much lower concentrations still, surveilling a classroom or a medical clinic where you have no idea if there’s going to be somebody positive or not.”
And an air sampler is not a silver bullet, said Mr. Burke, who made sure that his firefighters continued to wear masks, socially distance and get regular Covid tests even after he installed the air sampler.
“It can’t be like a smoke detector in your house where you’re, like, ‘I’m just going to have the machine, I’m not going to do anything else, it will let me know when there’s a problem,’” he said.