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Virus-killing robot zaps airport viruses as pandemic travel picks up

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in an era of distinctive travel experiences for those going against expert guidance to stay at home ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

a store inside of a building: LightStrike is a UV robot that is a proven killer of the novel coronavirus.

© Bryan Glazer/AP
LightStrike is a UV robot that is a proven killer of the novel coronavirus.

Not only are airlines mandating that passengers wear masks throughout flights, but mid-outbreak travelers are also facing innovative gadgets meant to combat the coronavirus, though the efficacy of some is questionable, according to epidemiologists. Some airports, such as Los Angeles International, have installed thermal imaging cameras to scan for fever symptoms, while airlines such as United have installed touchless kiosks, enabling passengers to keep their hands clean while checking in.

As air travel gains some steam and coronavirus-related shutdowns return in pockets of the country, one of the latest iterations of virus-fighting tech at the airport is a germ-zapping robot at San Antonio International Airport in Texas. It’s called LightStrike, and other airports are considering whether to invest in the $125,000 device that has been shown to be effective against the coronavirus. Some airports are watching to see whether travel improves over the coming weeks, according to officials at Xenex, the company behind the device.

“When you bring something like SARS-CoV-2 into focus, institutions like hotels, airlines, professional sports teams, they’re looking for what’s best-in-class to kill it,” said Morris Miller, CEO of Xenex.

Xenex says that its robot business has increased 600 percent amid the pandemic. Most of the increase is related to the health-care industry, but the robot also has entered new markets such as hotels, professional sports facilities and police stations.

Initially developed for use in hospitals and recently picked up by a local school district in Texas, LightStrike is 43 inches tall, about the size of a wheelchair, and has to be pushed along by an operator to reach targeted areas.

The high-tech plug-in pushcart uses powerful bursts of UV light to combat viruses on surfaces within a seven-foot radius in each direction, according to Mark Stibich, an infectious-diseases epidemiologist and chief scientific officer at Xenex.

A LightStrike robot operates inside San Antonio International Airport. (Xenex)

A LightStrike robot operates inside San Antonio International Airport. (Xenex)

It’s been known for decades that UV radiation can destroy viruses by chemically altering their genetic material. However, different pathogens are susceptible to UV light at varying wavelengths. Many traditional UV devices use low-intensity mercury bulbs, which means they may take longer to kill organic material such as viruses. By contrast, LightStrike robots have a powerful xenon UV-C light source capable of damaging the DNA and RNA of viruses in a matter of minutes.

When plugged in, the machine stores up a charge and releases the UV light in quick, pulsating bursts that also happen to be gentler on surfaces than continuous UV rays generated by mercury, according to Xenex. The device is not safe for use on humans, and the company built in a motion sensor, so the robot automatically turns off if a person comes within a certain range.

In a test run

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See Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel picks for 2021

Duration: 03:50

Lonely Planet believes travel can be a force for good, a philosophy behind their Best in Travel picks for 2021

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Vaccine Trials to Boost Leisure and Recreation Space: 5 Picks

Rising coronavirus cases along with Presidential election-related concerns weighed on investors throughout the past week. However, news on progress on a COVID-19 vaccine helped some of the worst-hit sectors gain traction.

Vaccine Trial Fuels Hopes of Returning to Normal

Scientists, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have been working around the clock to come up with a viable vaccine or treatment amid the pandemic so that people and businesses can return to normal globally. While the procedure of making a vaccine is time consuming and requires several phases of testing before actual use, markets are getting restless as restrictions and social-distancing norms hamper lifestyle and businesses constantly.

Several businesses that require outdoor engagements like traveling, sports, recreation and tourism have been facing the brunt of the pandemic and any news of progress on the vaccine development front should reignite hopes. On Nov 9, BioNTech and Pfizer reported that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate can protect most people from symptomatic infections. The vaccine is in a Phase 3 clinical trial and BioNTech and Pfizer are now the first to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S market. BNT162b2, BioNTech and Pfizer’s experimental mRNA vaccine has an efficacy rate of 90% in the Phase 3 clinical trial, where patients were assessed seven days after the second dose was administered. This is higher than the 60% threshold which has been cited in the original study protocol for the vaccine.

On the same day, Eli Lilly & Co. announced that the FDA has approved a COVID-19 antibody treatment, called bamlanivimab, for emergency use. Bamlanivimab has been seen as a potential treatment for those patients with mild to moderate infection and leads to reduced viral load as well as lower rates of symptoms and hospitalization.

While positive news on vaccine development put stay-at-home winners under pressure, it lifts companies hit hardest by months of travel bans and lockdowns. Lower-income workers in the leisure and recreation industry have already bore the brunt of the crisis. A breakthrough in coronavirus vaccine will not only allow the industry to return to business but also lift the broader economy.

5 Top Picks

With progress in coronavirus vaccine trials, it seems that theleisure and recreation space will return to its normal soon. Here are five stocks that carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) and can make the most.

Camping World Holdings, Inc. CWH operates as an outdoor and camping retailer. The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current quarter is more than 100% against the Zacks Leisure and Recreation Services industry’s projected earnings decline of more than 100%.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #1 company’s current-year earnings has been revised 20.6% upward over the past 60 days.You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Vista Outdoor Inc. VSTO designs, manufactures, and markets consumer products for outdoor sports and recreation markets. The company that belongs to the Zacks Leisure and Recreation Products industry has an expected earnings growth rate of

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TSA screens 1 million passengers in one day for first time since mid-March as travel picks up during coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus is still in the air, but so are travelers.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers on Sunday, the first time passing the seven-digit mark since March 17, just five days after Tom Hanks and Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

Between Monday and Sunday, 6.1 million passengers crossed through TSA checkpoints, the highest weekly volume since the pandemic began.

The TSA touted its health protocols in keeping passengers safe, including acrylic barriers and technologies that reduce or eliminate physical contact between passengers and officers.

“TSA has been diligent in our efforts to ensure checkpoints are clean, safe and healthy for frontline workers and airline passengers, implementing new protocols and deploying state-of-the-art technologies that improve security and reduce physical contact,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement Monday.

While the TSA said its numbers are still “well below pre-pandemic levels,” the slow return to normalcy comes as coronavirus rates begin to spike again.

As of Monday, more than 8.1 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus and almost 220,000 deaths reported so far.

Many airlines are still using their own health protocols, including mask usage and leaving seats open to help with social distancing.


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