Fogging out the virus: County deploying disinfectant equipment to health care facilities

  • Mayor Harry Kim

  • Department of Public Works General Services Superintendent Duane De Luz, right, shows Keauhou Urgent Care staff member Jocelyn Naone how the fogger works Friday.

  • A fogger owned by Hawaii County Civil Defense is loaned to Keauhou Urgent Care Center on Friday.

  • Hawaii County Civil Defense’s Logistics and Finance Division Staff Officer Tom Olson, right, explains to staff at the Keauhou Urgent Care how the fogger works on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii County Department of Public Works General Services Superintendent Duane De Luz measures disinfectant solution to be used in a fogger Friday at Keauhou Urgent Care Center.

  • Hawaii County Civil Defense’s Logistics and Finance Division Staff Officer Tom Olson trains staff at Keauhou Urgent Care Center how to properly use a disinfectant fogger on Friday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Hawaii County is taking charge of getting foggers to health care and county facilities in an effort to quash the spread of COVID-19 on the Big Island.

The effort rolled out this week with the deployment of three Fogmaster Tri-Jet foggers used to disperse a disinfectant into the air and on surfaces for a more thorough cleaning to kill the novel coronavirus that’s sickened dozens on the Big Island since Feb. 28.

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“It’s intended to reach those hard-to-reach areas — those spaces that it’s not practical to reach with a wiper,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense’s Logistics and Finance Division staff officer Tom Olson. “This can get those certain spaces that may be in a corner or behind a unit. If there was any type of particulate that needs to be disinfected, this can take care of it.”

As of Friday, Hawaii County Civil Defense had delivered the on-loan equipment and Biocide Homeclean solution to Kauka Express Urgent Care Clinic in Hilo, Keauhou Urgent Care Center in Keauhou and Aloha Kona Urgent Care in Kailua-Kona.

Dr. Ileana Sanchez, owner and operator of Keauhou Urgent Care Center, said she took up the county’s offer to loan the fogger to increase protection for patients and staff.

“Everything is so upside-down — people are so scared to even get near a medical facility — so, hopefully, with this they will feel a little more at ease to get help, if they really need to,” said Sanchez. “By doing this, I think it will make people feel more comfortable, and also the staff, by adding to the protection that we’re offering for everybody.”

A fourth fogger is slated for Hilo Medical Center’s triage tent that’ll be established if cases present, Olson said. An additional 11 are on order for other facilities and county uses, such as for disinfecting Hele-On buses.

“The goal is to increase the disinfecting capabilities of our island’s healthcare system and County facilities. This pandemic has given us opportunity to research and understand new and innovative solutions that can be used across a broad spectrum of public service facilities,” said Olson.

The idea to utilize the foggers in Hawaii County dates to March, when Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, county leadership and Civil Defense met with Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of America Capt. Robert Gessner prior to the shutdown of the cruise line industry on March 13.

“He introduced us to this machine, as they employ the foggers to clean individual cabins. We were able to understand that foggers possess a unique capability in reaching parts of a space that would be impossible or otherwise impractical to reach…” Olson said.

The captain even loaned the county one to use while foggers were shipped to the Big Island.

“We took this opportunity to refine our understanding of the unit and to develop our dissemination and training plan. We extend our deepest gratitude to Captain Gessner for affording us this opportunity,” Olson said.

Each fogger runs about $300. The concentrate runs $500 a gallon, which when diluted is enough to make about 56 gallons of disinfectant.

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“These foggers can do things you cannot do with wiping things down,” Kim said, noting his administration has prioritized prevention and education since Feb. 28, a date he calls “Day One.”

“This community is really hurting, and things will get bad in regard to people’s hardship (if the situation worsens), so we’ve got to do everything we can to expedite putting this emergency away.”

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