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Amtran deploys new weapon in fight to stop coronavirus

Nanotechnology protecting people

Altoona will close City Hall to the public beginning today and conduct office business as far as possible by phone, email and traditional mail, in response to the coronavirus.

Logan Township is discouraging visits to its municipal building, encouraging residents to pay taxes via mail or by using a dropoff box outside the main entrance.

Both responses are probably typical of municipalities throughout the country at this stage of the epidemic, but at least one aspect of a city authority’s response to coronavirus is decidedly atypical: Amtran is killing germs on surfaces within its buses and at its headquarters facility using nanotechnology, to help protect riders and employees from infection, according to General Manager Eric Wolf.

“Amtran has taken a unique step,” Wolf wrote in a news release Tuesday.

It’s treating the buses, at a cost of $180 each, with Aegis Microbe Shield, which has been used in public transportation for two years. It lasts for a year and kills germs by literally spearing and electrocuting them, according to a video embedded in the news release.

The protectant’s longevity contrasts to that of disinfectant, which needs to be reapplied frequently, according to an Aegis fact sheet.

Aegis Antimocrobial bonds permanently to almost any surface by using a “base anchor” of silane, according to the video.

Above the silane is a nitrogen molecule, according to the video.

Above the nitrogen molecule is a “sword,” comprising a long molecular chain.

The much larger microbial cells are drawn down onto the sword and into contract with the nitrogen because the microbes’ cell membranes are negatively charged and they’re attracted to the positively charged nitrogen atom, according to the video.

The sword pierces the cell wall, potentially killing the cell, then contact with the nitrogen electrocutes the cell, finishing the task, according to the video.

“All hard and soft surfaces on Amtran buses are being treated, including seats, grab bars, doors and windows,” the news release stated.

“Amtran provides an important service to the community, getting people to work, to the grocery store and to health care,” Wolf said. “We need to do everything we can to make a trip on the bus as safe as possible.”

A few of the city’s employees can work at home, but most need to be on the job to do their work, especially those in the police, fire and public works departments, according to Manager Ken Decker.

There is no plan at this point to lay off any Altoona employees due to the coronavirus, he said.

There is a likelihood, however, that the coronavirus will reduce city revenues, because residents that could become unemployed for a time and businesses that need to shut down for a while will be spending less, indicated Decker, speaking from his office Tuesday at City Hall, where all interior doors were propped open to eliminate the need for employees to touch door handles.

Earned income tax would be one revenue source obviously affected.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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