The invisible enemy that’s caused so much mayhem in recent months has formidable opponents here in Kerrville: disinfectant-spraying businesses.
There are several local, family-owned companies that have been disinfecting homes and offices with increasing frequency, due to the high demand for that service: Starkey Pest Control, Foss Pest Control, Germ Busters of Texas and GermLogic, for example.
“We can’t keep up with the amount of phone calls we get — hundreds a day,” said Brian DiCicco, who started GermLogic with his wife, Tiffany, years ago. “We’ve gotten calls from New York and California.”
GermLogic is a division of Hill Country Pest Control, which has been in Tiffany’s family for three generations. The company is headquartered in Kerrville and has locations in other states. One of their larger clients is a university in Texas they’ve disinfected for the last eight years, DiCicco said. They also disinfect homes as far away as San Antonio and Houston -- some of them dwelling spaces where coronavirus was confirmed to be present.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance on how to disinfect indoor areas to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that’s causing the current pandemic.
“Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” states a CDC fact sheet on disinfection practices. “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings.”
Like similar companies, GermLogic staff don protective gear for their work; although in this particular case, it’s mostly to prevent possible spread of the coronavirus, as the disinfectant the company uses, Vital Oxide, is said to be safe even on food and doesn’t have to be rinsed after applied. DiCicco said Vital Oxide kills 99.999 percent of pathogens, including H1N1, MERS, SARS2; Hepatitis A, B and C; and SARS-COV-2, which is the coronavirus that’s causing the current pandemic. A further degree of protection is offered by an optional spray of BioProtect, an anti-microbiol solution that prevents the growth of some germs for up to 90 days, although it hasn’t been proven to work on SARS-COV-2.
For sensitive areas where customers don’t want to use any chemicals, the company uses an ultraviolet light machine that leaves no residue and that produces a powerful type of UV light that destroys DNA and RNA: UVC. According to a March 27 BBC article, UVC is being used to disinfect buses, UVC-emitting robots have been cleaning floors in hospitals, and banks have even been using the light to disinfect their money.
As someone in the disinfectant business, DiCicco stays abreast of information he can use to fight the coronavirus. He said there’s data to suggest the virus may be able to travel 12 feet between people and also on the bottoms of shoes.
DiCicco said he’s been advising commercial customers to get the disinfecting service now while it’s easiest; it will be harder to schedule appointments once the pandemic dies down and many people return to workspaces.
Michael Murphy, who co-owns Royal Pane Window Cleaning with his wife, Breanna, recently began offering disinfectant services through a sister company they founded: Germ Busters of Texas. They also use the Vital Oxide in their sanitizing work. It’s not an easy compound to come by, Murphy said. No one’s shipping the chemical, due to the demand, so he has to pick it up in Austin, he said. The compound looks like a white mist when sprayed, and dries on surfaces within 5 to 7 minutes, he said. Everything gets sprayed with it, especially “hot spots” such as door handles and light switches.
Vital Oxide, according to its materials safety data sheet, contains Oxychlorine compounds, n-Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, n-Alkyl Dimethyl Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride and inert ingredients.
Some of the Murphys’ clients include churches, nursing homes, residences, and The Kerrville Daily Times, and they’re hoping to branch out into grocery stores and daycare centers.
“We’d like to get into grocery stores -- anyplace that’s staying open and just help keep it (coronavirus) at bay,” Murphy said. “Because if things like this are not happening, the rise of the virus could be pretty serious in the county.”
One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind, aside from “When will this pandemic end?” is “Will this pandemic change our lives indefinitely?” Murphy and DiCicco said one way it’s going to change life is people will be more apt to take precautions locally to prevent future pandemics, and even typical diseases such as seasonal flu.
“I think people are paying more attention to infection, how to create a safer work environment and a safer home environment,” DiCicco said.
Murphy noted that even typical illnesses that keep people home from work result in lower productivity, and the flu claims many lives annually. He said a once-per-month disinfection of all indoor surfaces is optimal for property owners who have traffic of more than 10 people per month.
“It’s just something that we forget — that our immune systems can be quickly compromised,” Murphy said. “It’s a service that’s going to help prevent future outbreaks and just keep people healthier and happier.”
The Murphys and DiCiccos both raise grade-school-age children in Kerrville. DiCicco said he and his wife moved from Dallas and waited until they arrived in Kerrville before starting a family.
“I wouldn’t want to raise kids in a different environment than what we have here,” DiCicco said.
Murphy also expressed gratitude for living in Kerrville, adding that he’s very impressed with the way the local community has supported local businesses and handled the pandemic.
“So I thank God that I live here in the Hill Country, because in most places in this world, the small businesses are forgotten, but here in the local community, the small businesses are what drive our community, so there’s no better place to raise your children or be a business owner,” Murphy said.