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Argyros and Culinary Institute Invest in Hospital-Grade Air Cleaners to Keep Guests Safe
Monday, August 23, 2021


When Curtis Stigers performed at The Argyros last month, Casey Mott overheard several people commenting how nice it was to be inside, out of the smoky conditions caused by the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.

“The air is fresher inside than outside,” he heard them say.

That’s the case with many Ketchum businesses as they invest in onsite air quality systems. They’re installing the systems in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But those systems have the added benefit of mitigating smoke, pollen, dander, airborne mold and bacteria that might otherwise be suspended in air.

As a new building, The Argyros already had good air filtration, said Mott, the theater’s executive director. But Mott tasked his facilities manager Alex Lilley with the job of finding what more they could do to mitigate the risk of COVID. And Lilley threw himself into the task so forcefully that his co-workers  nicknamed him Captain COVID.

Lilley settled on Global Plasma Solutions’ state-of-the-art Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization Filters (NPBI). The Sun Valley Culinary Institute across the street quickly followed suit to keep its customers and students safe. Ditto for The Spot, which installed needlepoint bipolar ionization technology with MERV-13 filtration and a new duct pulling five air changes an hour from outside air.

Others that have installed systems, include the Wood River Community YMCA, Gravity Fitness and Doty Architecture.

According to Global Plasma Solutions, naturally occurring ions are everywhere outdoors created with energy from rushing water and even sunlight. The company’s NPBI technology generates ions to freshen the air indoors, constantly working to clean the air.

The technology creates and releases ions into the airstream using the HVAC system. They seek out and bond with dust, dander, pollen, smoke, viruses and bacteria that are suspended in the air. As the particles begin clustering together, the system filters them out of the air and captures them.

The ions also have microbicidal properties that render viruses and bacterial proteins inactive.

Long popular in Europe, bipolar ionization technology was introduced in the United States in the 1970s to control pathogens in food manufacturing. It proved effective during the SARS outbreak of 2004 and more recent outbreaks of MERS and norovirus, according to Business Insider.

The technology reduces SARA-CoV2 by 98 percent in 60 minutes, according to a lab test by Innovative BioAnalysis laboratory services in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has does clinical research, consulting and testing for healthcare and medical research industries. It reduces influenzas by nearly 85 percent within 60 minutes and RSV by 95 percent.

Data outside labs is scant. But Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine, told Business Insider that the ions produce a chemical reaction inactivating the virus, reducing nearly 100 percent of microbes in a matter of minutes.

Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization is currently used in a quarter-million schools, offices, healthcare facilities and community event spaces around the world.

Johns Hopkins, Children’s Hospital in Boston and the University of Maryland Medical Center are among the hospitals using the technology. LaGuardia, O’Hare, LAX and San Francisco International are among the airports using the technology. And Google is among the workplaces adopting it, according to  Business Insider.

“It’s a new technology with a lot of excitement behind it,” said Mott. “We did due diligence and the data supports that it makes an impact. And we’re having an air quality specialist come from Salt Lake City next week to make sure it meets the minimum standards that the Actors’ Equity Association now requires before it allows actors to perform in theaters. I think we would’ve passed their standards before, but this gives us additional assurance.”

Operations Director Mike Hoover said The Argyros has installed MERV 13 filters, which are a hospital grade filters. Mostly used in hospitals, they trap the smallest airborne particles. In addition, the Argyros has installed portable HEPA units in high traffic areas, such as restrooms and dressing rooms for an additional layer of protection, said Mott.

“We’re still asking people to wear masks and follow other protocols,” said Hoover. “It’s the Swiss cheese model. You wear a mask and that makes it difficult for virus to get through, but there’s still some holes. You add physical distancing and that covers up some more of the holes. You get vaccinated and that offers another layer of protection. You add these air filtration systems and the virus has even less chance to get in.

“You’re never going to have 100 percent protection but we’re offering as safe an environment as we can.”

Both the Argyros and Sun Valley Culinary Institute keep their systems turned on 24/7.

“Two, five years from now when COVID is gone, these air systems will still be here,” Mott said. “And they’ll be addressing things like smoke.”

Mott and Karl Uri of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute noted that both facilities have many tools in place that they didn’t have at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Last year we didn’t have the vaccine. We didn’t know how effective masks really are, we didn’t have this air filtration system,” said Mott. “This bipolar ionization system gives us one more tool to enable people to come in doors. And it puts us one step closer to a return to normalcy.”

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