Hillsborough County spends millions in COVID-19 safety upgrades, focusing on air sanitation

UV-C light filters now in hundreds of HVAC units
Posted at 4:23 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 08:00:59-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Even as people continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Hillsborough County is working to ensure the public is protected against the virus and other illnesses in years to come.

There are millions of dollars in safety upgrades you'll now find in county facilities across the Tampa Bay area. There are approximately 228 Board of County Commission sites with $4.1 million in improvements & supplies. In addition, there are about 150 sites within the county's parks and recreation department, totaling around $3.1 million in upgrades.

This is combined with $16.8 million to supply nonprofits and county-owned sports venues with improvements, in addition to more than 80 plan reviews conducted in conjunction with the Department of Health.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Hillsborough County facilities manager John Muller knew they needed to focus on ventilation.

"It's the indoor air that has the highest risk, so let's control that," Muller said.

In the past year, he's launched a full-scale renovation of the county's HVAC systems. That includes installing these UV-C light filters in hundreds of the county's main public spaces, such as the tax collector's office.

Air Disinfection in the HVAC Equipment (UV-C and NBPI) in Hillsborough County buildings.

"That UV-C light has enough energy to destroy all the viruses and pathogens," Muller said.

So far, Hillsborough County has installed UV-C filters in 560 units. They've also placed HVAC disinfection in 87 elevator cabs and transitioned to stronger air filters.

The air sanitation isn't just up in the vents. The county's also installed portable UV air scrubbers in order to ensure more methods of safety.

"We will combine this along with a scrubber unit in place to give it that added boost," Muller said.

Hillsborough County has changed many common workspaces to add plexiglass barriers for stand-alone desks.

In addition, it's likely that on your next visit to any county building, you'll likely see facial temperature scanners, hand sanitizing stations, and clear plastic partitions.

Water bottle refilling stations have replaced many water fountains across Hillsborough County as part of COVID-19 safety upgrades.

Water fountains have also been replaced with bottle refilling stations and other touch-free fixtures. Muller said all of these changes are here to stay.

"We love the disinfection in place," Muller said.

He said all of this will be critical in protecting our most vulnerable not just from COVID-19, but the flu and other viruses.

Meeting spaces now have plexiglass partitions and portable UV air scrubbers to help increase air sanitation.

In addition, the county will continue A/V enhancements in meeting spaces that support hybrid meetings between small groups who gather and others who are virtual.