San Antonio robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services has launched a new service that allows Texas restaurants and other businesses to book the company’s germ-zapping robots to disinfect their facilities without having to purchase one of the pricey machines.

The company touts its $100,000 LightStrike robots as being effective in eliminating the coronavirus with its ultraviolet-light technology. The new service, called StrikeForce, began last week, allowing businesses to hire Xenex’s environmental disinfection team to clean their facilities on an as-needed basis.

Xenex spokeswoman Melinda Hart said businesses have inquired about such a service since the start of the pandemic, asking if Xenex does one-time cleanings. Previously the company did not offer the service, since its main clients were hospitals, health care providers, and hotels who purchased LightStrike robots, Hart said.

“As the pandemic ramped up, a lot of other businesses weren’t interested in owning a robot but wanted for one reason or another to have us come in and zap their building,” Hart said. 

The number of coronavirus cases in San Antonio and other Texas cities increased sharply in June as most Texas businesses reopened. Local officials have warned residents that hospitals are nearing capacity, and Bexar County recorded 1,268 new cases Tuesday.

The LightStrike robots use pulsating xenon lamps to generate bursts of high-intensity germicidal light, which kills viruses, bacteria, and fungal spores in the immediate area, such as a hospital room. In two- to five-minute increments, the robots can effectively disinfect a room, according to the company.

For its on-demand disinfection service, Xenex deploys two two-person teams, with each team working with four robots.

The LightStrike robots can cover between 60,000 to 100,000 square feet in an eight-hour shift, Hart said. Xenex charges about 2 to 4 cents per square foot.

So far, the businesses seeking the new disinfection service have been doing so because they want to keep employees and customers safe, rather than because they have been dealing with outbreaks, Hart said.

Elizabeth Cox, director of marketing at North Park Lexus of San Antonio, said the dealership she works at utilized the StrikeForce service as a precautionary measure. 

“I think right now everyone is in a state of insecurity and they’re unsure what they can do, what they should do” to protect people from the virus,” she said. “This [service] sanitizes and disinfects everything without leaving any toxins behind.”

One of the two-man teams came out to the dealership at 5:30 a.m. and had finished disinfecting the building before it opened at 9 a.m., Cox said. She added the service helped give employees and clients peace of mind. 

Tom Moreno, chief operations officer and executive vice president of The Bank of San Antonio, said their banks used StrikeForce for the same reasons. As an essential business, the banks have continued to operate during the pandemic, he said. 

“A lot of what we do involves our people being here. We can’t send everyone home,” Moreno said. “So keeping our building clean and disinfected is a big part of [keeping everything running], and [using StrikeForce] was one of the layers … we added.”

Other measures the bank is using include daily cleanings from a janitorial company, having employees wear masks, and prompting customers to the drive-thru windows when possible, Moreno said.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.