DHS Brings Web App to Coronavirus Fight
DHS Brings Web App to Coronavirus Fight. Never, in most of our lifetimes, have all corners of society collaborated to address a single grave threat as they have done in the fight against COVID-19. While epidemiological controls compose the first line of defense, technology is growing into a supporting role. So great is the potential for technology to help combat the pandemic that tools are being contributed even from unlikely places.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security, through its Science & Technology Directorate, released a simple web-based tool to help predict the decay rate of coronavirus in the air.
The tool, entitled “Estimated Airborne Decay of SARS-CoV-2,” accounts for the ambient temperature, relative humidity, and UV index in an outdoor environment to determine how much exposure time is required to “inactivate” (that is, render unable to infect cells) certain proportions of aerosolized coronavirus. For any given combination of those three variables, the tool outputs the amount of time until 50 percent, 90 percent, and 99 percent of the virus particles are inactivated.
The tool is openly available on the DHS website for anyone to use, an intentional choice in Dr. Lloyd Hough, a general biological scientist and Hazard Awareness and Characterization Technology Center lead at DHS’ Science & Technology Directorate, explained to TechNewsWorld that the tool equips decision makers for crafting effective public health policies.
On first blush, it may seem out of place for DHS to pursue research like this, but aside from the fact that the world needs all hands on deck to find a cure for COVID-19 as soon as possible, it is actually right in the agency’s wheelhouse. The Science & Technology Directorate alone conducts experiments like the coronavirus airborne decay study all the time. Primarily, these are carried out at the facilities of the directorate’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, or NBACC.
The NBACC operates a laboratory rated for biosafety level four (BSL-4), a corpus of containment and safety protocols expressly intended to study the most dangerous biological agents imaginable. Insight from studies at NBACC is then used to prepare the U.S. and its allies to foresee, prevent, and respond to biological warfare and terrorist attacks.