Submitted by the Office of City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino on Monday said he will propose $39,000 in funding be awarded from the Niagara Falls Community Development COVID-19 Fund for an innovative air sterilization project at the Schoellkopf Health Center in Niagara Falls.
The Schoellkopf Health Center is a 120-bed nursing home located in downtown Niagara Falls.
In making the announcement, Restaino said, “Advanced age, frailty and communal living conditions make nursing home residents especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and other airborne viruses.”
The mayor continued, “Frail elderly nursing home residents are at great risk of contracting viruses, because traditional ventilation and filtration systems are not able to remove small viral particles from the air. The air sterilization project aims to protect our most vulnerable older adults and produce data that will pave the way for similar projects at nursing facilities throughout Western New York.”
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo commended Restaino and his administration for their ongoing support of the medical center and the Schoellkopf Health Center.
He said, “We are truly grateful for the investments the mayor and his team continue to make in projects that help Niagara Falls Memorial protect and promote the health of the residents of the City of Niagara Falls. These contributions include funding for neighborhood-based COVID testing, a mobile health van that brings health care to underserved communities, upgrades to the Schoellkopf Health Center’s exterior sidewalks and driveway and, most recently, funding for improvements to the historic Schoellkopf Park, including lighting, plantings and pedestrian pathways.”
The air sterilization project has been developed and advanced by Rethink WNY, an organization that is comprised of health care professionals from the State University of New York at Buffalo, other organizations, and regional businesses.
The $39,000 in proposed funding announced by Restaino will supplement a $190,000 donation for the purchase of air sterilization equipment for the project that is being made by You First Services, a Buffalo-based company, established in 2013, that is dedicated to introducing health care applications and solutions.
The air sterilization technology that will be applied to the Schoellkopf project was developed in collaboration with the State University of New York at Buffalo and the U.S. Department of Defense. Air sterilization destroys more than 99.9999% of all pathogens from air samples, which differs from HEPA filtration that may allow pass-through of viruses, mold, small bacteria, and allergens, and does not inactivate these contaminants.
A SteriSpace air sterilization system would be installed to serve the Schoellkopf Health Center’s resident recreation room. The 1,504-square-foot, ground-level room poses a risk for transmission of airborne diseases because it is a high-traffic and high-occupancy space. Residents congregate there to watch movies, read books, and engage in other extracurricular activities.
The SteriSpace equipment units would be installed outside at ground level. The units would be equipped with a heating and cooling system to remove potentially contaminated air and supply sterile, proper temperature air back into the space.
The $39,000 grant award from the Niagara Falls Community Development COVID Fund would be dedicated to equipment installation, air sample assessments to measure the effect of air sterilization on air quality, project management, and data analysis.
The Schoellkopf air sterilization project could be completed by August of this year.