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MILWAUKEE As more people are allowed back into offices, restaurants and hotels under the City of Milwaukee's re-opening plans, the need for disinfection is greater than ever.
Pest 2 Rest Pest Control, a family-owned extermination company, is one of the many businesses that now specialize in COVID-19 disinfection.
"There is a 0.1% difference between sanitizing and disinfecting," said Jeffery Hardy Sr., the co-owner of Pest 2 Rest. "So, sanitizing, you're cleaning; disinfecting, you're killing the virus. And that's what we're encouraging people to do."
He also encourages clients to have a plan of action after his job is done.
Hardy's business, as its name would suggest, started out killing bed bugs, roaches, rodents and other critters. Since March, Hardy chose to pivot like many other entrepreneurs. Now, he and his wife, Brenda, and sometimes their three kids as well, spray interiors to rid keyboards, desks and doorknobs of the invisible menace that has claimed the lives of almost 150,000 Americans.
The Hardys began their transition in February when Hardy was urged by his supplier to make a significant order of something called Nisus DSV.
"I think he knew something was gonna happen," Hardy said.
"And then March came and everything kind of hit the fan, and come to find out that this product is a disinfectant that's used for the COVID," Hardy said. "It's very kind of hard to find now."
Nisus DSV can be found under the EPA registration number 10324-80 on List N, which contains EPA-approved disinfectant products "for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19."
Thanks to the switch to office cleaning, Pest 2 Rest is probably doing better financially than it was before, Hardy said.
Pest 2 Rest began in 2009 as a one-man operation. Once the workload became too much for Hardy alone, his wife joined, too. Eventually, all three of their children came to help out in the family business.
These days, instead of ridding mattresses of unwanted critters, they're more likely to be spraying down bar stools. But what they are most passionate about is making churches safe again.
Their desire to help the faithful started a few weeks ago while taking a Saturday drive. Like so many others, they were looking for a way to fend off boredom.
"Every bar that we went past had a line out the door, 20 or 30 people waiting to get in," Hardy said. The next day, "We went past six or seven churches, and not one person."
The Hardys wondered how this could be and decided to take it upon themselves to do something about it.
The demand for disinfection is so high that many other businesses have reoriented themselves to meet it.
Another company, Onedesk, based in Minneapolis is approaching the new demand for office cleaning from a high-tech perspective.
The company's website and app, which have the look and feel of a thriving Silicon Valley startup, enable clients to message, schedule and pay for services through an online platform. Onedesk contracts with cleaners throughout the country using a thorough vetting process. Once approved, contractors are required to maintain industry knowledge with regular assessments.
Like Pest 2 Rest, the company looks a lot different than it did a few months ago.
"We would just come in, vacuum, we would dust, you know. We would make offices look good, nice," said Roman Peysakhovich, CEO of Onedesk. "Now the main thing is all about disinfection. It's the only thing that people care about. It's not so much about just having a tidy office."
Contractors now use virucide and electrostatic sprayers, devices that use positively charged particles that cling to surfaces.
Peysakhovich said his company's services, once seen as a luxury, are now considered fundamental.
Onedesk, formerly Building Masters, took the opportunity to reconfigure itself when statewide orders like "Safer at Home" shut down businesses and reduced the need for cleaning services across the country.
"So it took about a good two months for us to learn all this stuff and review most of the basics," Peysakhovich said.
A third alternative for eliminating the virus barely requires human help.
Altapure is a disinfection technology and manufacturing company based in Mequon, Wisconsin. It has developed the AP-4, a touchless device that can disinfect a 3,000-cubic-foot room in 45 minutes. It can be controlled wirelessly, which reduces the risk of human contamination.
Carl L. Ricciardi co-founded Altapure with his son, Jonathan, in 2003. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, AP-4 sales have gone up and its customer base has expanded dramatically.
"Prior to COVID, we were primarily a medical facility oriented company. Post-COVID nursing homes, long-term care facilities, restaurants any place where people gather has become a customer," Ricciardi said.
Altapure has clients in the Midwest, on the East Coast and even in Australia and New Zealand.
"COVID was a wake-up call for the world and a wake-up call to American medicine and a wake-up call to hospitals and, certainly, a wake-up call to the public."
Brenda Hardy of Pest 2 Rest can attest to this last point.
She said her friends and family speak of cleaning and disinfecting to make places such as churches safe enough to visit again.
Hardy said that "cleanliness is next to godliness," but during this pandemic, 'clean' is simply not good enough.
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