SHAWNEE, Kan. — Mike Burns said a lightbulb went off during a conversation with a friend in December 2020.
As the CEO and president of Garnett, Kansas-based AuBurn Pharmacies, Burns is always looking for ways to help.
Aside from standard retail pharmacies, AuBurn has three pharmacies that work exclusively for long-term care facilities. Burns knows people living in those facilities have felt isolated because of restrictions on visitors in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, which has a greater impact on the elderly.
“Sadly, we’ve lost lives and without having to be there to hold their hand or even be near them,” Burns said. “We gotta get through COVID-19.”
Burns’ lightbulb moment came when he found out Sonic Equipment Company in neighboring Iola, Kansas, developed an air sanitation system using ultraviolet light.
Since the 1960s, Sonic has been a supplier of movie theater equipment.
Some projectors use UV light. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hurting the theater business, one of Sonic’s owners, Stan Hays, coordinated a pivot. The company now uses a power supply designed for projectors and those UV lights in machines that disinfect the air.
“The energy [from UV-C light] goes into the virus and actually scrambles the RNA. So it stops it from being able to replicate,” explained Chris Stevens, the vice president of services at Sonic Equipment Company.
Burns’s pharmacy purchased an air sanitation system and donated it to Merriam Gardens Healthcare and Rehab Center in Shawnee, Kansas, last month. Merriam Gardens is one of the long-term care facilities which uses AuBurn to fill its prescriptions.
“Having these units here can bring us one step closer to, not just saving lives, but, hopefully, being able to partially open the doors to allow families and loved ones to at least come in,” Burns explained.
The administrator of Merriam Gardens said Burns is correct. Paired with staff and residents receiving the vaccine, the addition of the air sanitizer will allow Merriam Gardens to slowly allow visitors back into the facility soon.
“That [air sanitizer] just means hopefully more freedom for everybody in the future,” Levi Davis, from Merriam Gardens, pointed out.
Stevens said ultraviolet light has proven to kill viruses and bacteria in air and water in the past. He explained how Sonic Equipment Company’s CinosUVC 1000-watt Enviro Air Disinfector works.
The rectangle, about 6-feet tall and 2-feet wide, sucks air in through a filter in the bottom. The air flows into a UV disinfection chamber in the middle of the machine, then passes through a charcoal filter at the top of the machine before returning to the room.
Stevens said the UV-C light kills more than 99 percent of viruses in less than one second. It can disinfect 90,000 cubic feet.
Unfortunately, Hays, the owner of Sonic who came up with the idea to pivot, passed away from COVID-19 just after Christmas. Burns and Stevens know he would’ve loved to see the delivery at Merriam Gardens.
“Even more so than ever, it’s kind of a memorialization for him seeing this dream become a reality,” Stevens said. “Especially getting into a long-term care facility.”
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