As with the early days of today's COVID-19 pandemic, few social distancing measures were enacted as the Spanish flu – so named not for scientific reasons, but because the Spanish press gave it heavy play – began its march across the globe.
Now, however, governments are using numerous strategies to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and their effectiveness will determine whether the epidemic is wiped out or continues to grow.
The limited social interaction that exists right now comes from shopping which helps us keep a small semblance of normal life.
We often don't find out about a new disease until it's already an epidemic. With this one, first we ignored it, then we laughed at it, then it started winning, now we are fighting it.
The National spoke to Antony Papageorgiou, who moved from the COVID-19 devastated cruise ship industry more than a decade ago to the COVID-19 vital air purification business
TNH: What's the next step?
Antony Papageorgiou: Together we fight, together we heal!
TNH: Tell us about yourself and your work.
AP: I am definitely a people person. I studied hospitality management at the Cornell Hotel School, and for many years I held leadership roles in the cruise industry. Twelve years ago I changed gears completely and joined the wellness industry, finding my true calling. I used to feel very proud for choreographing people's fabulous cruise vacations. These days I feel very humbled knowing that our team helps people save lives!
TNH: What are your thoughts on the impact of the social distancing and staying at home policy. The negatives are obvious but is there anything positive we can get out of this difficult situation?
AP: I can think of a lot of positives. For the younger people, this pause has given them a chance to learn how to live with much less. For the older, it was an opportunity to look up and see sunny blue skies again after a long time in many cases!
TNH: Tell us a little bit about your company.
AP: The HealthWay Family of Brands is based out of Pulaski, NY. It is a beautiful small town right by the idyllic Salmon River. The company was founded by our visionary Chairman, Vince Lobdell, in 1981. In the first years we were making machines to help people get rid of the smell of smoke. We experimented with all kinds of different filtration technologies before we developed our proprietary, patented DFS (Disinfecting Filtration System) technology with the help of a military grant. This amazing technology allows us to capture and remove ultra-fine particles as small as 0.007 micron from indoor environments. The size of the novel Coronavirus which has claimed so many lives is 0.1 micron, so you can understand how extremely useful our Intellipure systems are these days.
TNH: What has been the impact of the pandemic on you and your company?
AP: We are all very saddened with the havoc that the pandemic has caused. At the same time, we are very grateful that we can help people breathe better and protect hospital doctors and staff in their life-saving efforts often in highly contaminated indoor spaces.
TNH: Explain to us why this unprecedented crisis keeps you so busy?
AP: We had to increase significantly the production of our medical grade air cleaning systems by adding many more people and shifts in order to build and deliver a lot of equipment to hospitals all over New York and New Jersey. At the same time, we have been experiencing a major surge in demand from other parts of the country and overseas, as we are considered a go-to company when it comes to trapping the most harmful ultra fine viruses. You name it, MERS, SARS, H1N1, we have always been the air purification technology of choice for the front liners in the fight against these invisible, nasty enemies.
TNH: Had your company ever imagined that one day you would be so involved in the support of the New York healthcare system?
AP: Not really. Having said that, the minute we realized the seriousness of the problem in NYC, everyone on our team pulled together and has gone above and beyond the call of duty the past few weeks. You know what is the strangest thing? No one complains. Realizing how much we are able to help takes away completely any notion of fatigue.
TNH: Other than supporting hospitals and clinics who else can benefit from your technology?
AP: A wide variety of groups, from people who live in areas with high outdoor pollution to people who suffer from asthma and allergies, all the way to those who want to improve their sleeping experience or performance in daytime activities. There is a direct correlation between the quality of indoor air and so many illnesses. Clean indoor air can even contribute to higher fertility rates!
TNH: Do you think that after this crisis is over people will be paying more attention to indoor air quality?
AP: Yes, we believe so. People have become very aware of the harm that ultra-fine particles can cause to our physical and emotional health and have started to seek serious solution providers.
TNH: Speaking of wellness, do you think that, after this current shock, people will continue to pursue holistic wellness options, or they may go back to their old habits?
AP: The former. I think we will experience an even bigger wave of wellness enthusiasts which for some the main motivation after coming out of this pandemic alive will be the natural strengthening of their immune system and release of all of anxiety and fear.
TNH: It is heart-warming to see the emergency responders' selfless dedication.
AP: Absolutely. These are the true heroes of our times to whom as a society we should be eternally obliged.
TNH: Wishing good health and better days ahead of us all. What is your message to our readers?
AP: As my late dad would say, this will pass, too. If we genuinely learn the lessons from this global scare, then we may be able to improve the quality of our indoor living and, hopefully, reduce the risk of going through a similar crisis again.
TNH: Can we have a life where we can look forward to looking back?
AP: During this pause, we have a unique opportunity to prioritize who and what matters, toss what is meaningless, read and learn more about fields that we always wanted to explore, but we couldn't include in our hectic schedules. It's also a great time to count our blessings, help the ones that all of a sudden found themselves facing a serious impasse, and, for some of us, who have already embarked on this exciting journey, share with everyone around us the true power of living a wellness-driven life that takes care of our physical, emotional and spiritual health. I personally believe that we will come out of this global scare being better people, better friends, better entrepreneurs. We will return to `normality' with much less baggage and much more appreciation for life and nature!