September 23, 2020

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Restaurateur tries to filter virus from the air

Scot McTaggart, owner of Fusion Grill, with the air purifier that will be installed in the restaurant’s ventilation system next week. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p></p>

Scot McTaggart, owner of Fusion Grill, with the air purifier that will be installed in the restaurant’s ventilation system next week. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

An Academy Road restaurateur is hoping to bypass social distancing rules by installing an air purifier that’s been effective in inactivating viruses such as H1N1, bird flu and norovirus.

Scot McTaggart, owner of Fusion Grill, said he hopes government health officials will consider the Reme Halo air purifier as a viable safety precaution businesses can use to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. RGF Environmental Group makes the purifier. The company claims their products have a 99 per cent inactivation rate of bird flu, H1N1, norovirus, and bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Kansas State University tested the company’s products’ inactivation rates.

Nobody has tested to see if Reme Halo is effective against COVID-19, but studies should begin soon, a spokesperson from RGF Environmental Group said.

The purifier attaches to air conditioning or heating system air ducts. It produces hydrogen peroxide plasma that goes through the air handler, the duct system and into the room. The plasma makes particles stick together, making them bigger for filters to catch, according to RGF Environmental Group’s website.

If Reme Halo proves to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, then there should be no need for physical distancing, McTaggart said.

He said he wants his staff and customers to be safe — but physical distancing measures make it hard to keep a restaurant afloat.

"The margins in the restaurant business are small to start with," McTaggart said. "We kind of need our capacity, especially on Friday and Saturday nights."

Fusion Grill opened a patio to accommodate COVID-19 measures. Five of its 12 tables are open inside. Hand sanitizer is abundant and the staff make sure to wipe down tables and chairs often, McTaggart said.

Returning to 100 per cent capacity will be difficult with social distancing measures in place, McTaggart said. He called Plexiglas "expensive" and said his restaurant is too small to hang washable curtains everywhere.

"It would remind me of one of those communal hospital rooms with the curtains drawn across," he said.

McTaggart has had a Reme Halo attached to a portable unit for a month. He’ll have one installed permanently in the restaurant’s HVAC unit next Tuesday. He spent $1,600 on the purifier.

He said the restaurant smells fresher now, but it’s hard to see the difference.

McTaggart said he’s spoken with government affairs officials at Restaurants Canada about the purifiers, but he hasn’t spoken with provincial health officials. Some people he’s spoken with have been skeptical.

"It’s a ‘seeing is believing’ type thing, a ‘how much is this gonna cost’ type thing," he said.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Community journalist — The Headliner

Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at gabrielle.piche@canstarnews.com

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