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Copper in the Fight against Coronavirus, Infectious Diseases: Vancouver Installs Anti-Microbial Copper Surfaces in Public Transit System

Amidst election chaos and surging coronavirus case numbers, we got a piece of good news early this week when pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a vaccine candidate they had developed was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in study participants in their first interim efficacy analysis.

Great news indeed – to the point that it had the United States’ top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci declare that “[the coronavirus crisis is] not going to be pandemic for a lot longer because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around,” at an event hosted by think tank Chatham House earlier this week.

Fauci cautioned, however, that while the virus would likely cease spreading around the world at the pace it currently is, “it could circulate quietly below the surface, at least in certain areas.”

“Putting it to rest doesn’t mean eradicating it,” he said. “I doubt we’re going to eradicate this, I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically, it may be something that becomes endemic that we have to just be careful.”

And COVID-19 notwithstanding, experts are cautioning that deadly infectious disease outbreaks could become more common. Faced with an unavoidable future full of global pandemics, prevention and preparation will be key.

Enter antimicrobial copper.

Followers of ARPN will know that we have touted copper’s antimicrobial properties in the fight against COVID-19, and have highlighted how its application in hospital settings has proven to significantly reduce bacteria and thus and acquisition rates for hospital acquired infections.

Specifically looking at coronavirus, a new clinical study conducted by National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists and published in The New England Journal of Medicine earlier this spring confirmed that while SARS-CoV-2 was stable “for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” it was only detectable on copper surfaces for four hours.

We have featured several new ideas on how to harness copper’s properties in the fight against coronavirus ranging from the development of copper-infused fabrics to copper-alloyed cell phone cases, and the introduction of legislation at the state level calling for all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces – including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails.

The latest example of copper finding its way into the fight against the current and future pandemics comes to us via our neighbors to the north in Canada:

As part of a partnership with Vancouver-based Teck Resources and Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Vancouver is installing anti-microbial copper surfaces in its public transit system – specifically on two Sky Trains and two trolley buses. The TransLink pilot project explores whether the materials could be “effective in ensuring a safer transit system in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the Vancouver Sun, the copper surfaces will be installed at high-touch points on board the two trains and two buses and will be swabbed twice a week. At the end of one month, they will be assessed for durability. Upon conclusion of the pilot, findings and results of the pilot program will be shared widely.

Cautious optimism in light of this week’s vaccine news may be in order, but the fight against infectious diseases more closely resembles a marathon than a sprint. As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty pointed out earlier this year:

“Now is the time for smart moves to respond to this threat and prepare for future ones. New public spaces—and particularly the touch-points of human contact within those spaces—must become our first line of protection. Anti-microbial metals like copper are an indispensable weapon in this war.”