Biometrics: The Trusted Hygienic ID Solution for Students & Staff
Practical, Safe Solutions for COVID-19 Response
Dr. Anne Marie Dunphy
Dr. Raymond J. Fry
YES! Your biometric finger scanners are still the safest hygienic solution for student and staff ID management in your schools.
Here’s science-based evidence so you’ll have the tools necessary to communicate with your parents, teachers, staff and students in order to make sound, science-based decisions.
What are Some Best Practices for Student & Staff Safety with Biometrics?
Your whole world has changed. The cleaning process for your identiMetrics finger scanners HAS NOT. identiMetrics has ALWAYS recommended using alcohol to clean your finger scanners.
Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are recommended by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against the Covid-19 virus.
This is one area in your school
that can run "business as usual."
Studies show that ID cards, PIN pads, swipe card machines and even cellphones are downright filthy and contaminated with viruses, bacteria and germs. Talking produces potentially dangerous respiratory droplets if the infected person is close enough. Even “contactless" ID card solutions require the user to present a card that’s full of contamination, easily spread onto your sanitary surfaces.
The beauty of the biometric finger scanner is that the outside covering is a simple plastic casing with a small glass plate. There are no nooks and crannies that harbor germs. It has only one spot to touch with the tip of one finger. Most importantly, in a world where there is little control over the sanitation of people and objects, you can have control over the cleanliness of the finger scanners and the finger tips that touch them.
By using recommendations from the CDC along with Best Practices recommendations from identiMetrics, your finger scanners can be the most hygienic spots your students and staff touch all day!
Clean. Dry. Scan.
It’s simple, easy, fast - and accurate!
Here are some Best Practices for keeping hands clean.
♦ Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
♦ You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
♦ Remind students and staff to avoid touching their eyes, noses, and mouths.
Here are some Best Practices for keeping finger scanners clean and disinfected.
♦ Use alcohol wipes or a soft paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol.
♦ Gently clean off the finger scanner.
♦ Dry immediately with another paper towel or just air dry.
♦ Sterilize the finger scanners periodically throughout the day.
Here are some Best Practices for scanning.
♦ Maintain the recommended distance between people.
♦ Touch the finger to a sponge moistened with an alcohol solution or an alcohol wipe.
♦ Touch the finger to a paper towel to dry.
♦ Touch the finger to the scanner to scan.
How is Covid-19 Transmitted?
We all have become overnight “experts” on Covid-19 by sheer necessity. According to the CDC, Covid-19 is a respiratory virus. It’s mainly transmitted between people who are in close contact with one another - within about 6 feet. Covid-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Gravity causes large droplets of virus-laden mucus to fall from the air after traveling only a few feet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends a physical distance of at least three feet between people to avoid infection.
A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that it’s plausible that the Covid-19 virus can also spread through aerosol transmission. Aerosols are fine particles that can stay suspended in the air for hours and can also travel with air currents. People emit virus particles in a range of sizes, especially when they talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, current data do not support long range aerosol transmission of Covid-19 like, for example, measles or tuberculosis. Short-range inhalation of aerosols is a possibility for Covid-19, as with many respiratory pathogens especially in poorly ventilated spaces. However, this cannot easily be distinguished from “droplet” transmission based on epidemiologic patterns. The exception is in hospital settings for example, during the intubation procedure.
According to the CDC, it may be possible that a person can also get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Interestingly enough, according to the CDC, the transmission of Covid-19 to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not currently been documented. Hence, contact transmission is unlikely the main way the Covid-19 virus spreads.
However, washing hands and keeping hands away from the face is THE recommended standard hygiene practice and should ALWAYS be followed.
So far, there's no evidence that the Covid-19 virus is transmitted via food. The virus will not live long in food proper. While it's possible that food packaging could contain small concentrations of virus particles, it’s easy to mitigate this risk by washing hands.
There are also several other factors that could make the transmission of Covid-19 through food less likely, even if the virus is present on food or a food worker catches the virus. The food safety measures that are already in place to prevent food borne illnesses would also reduce the transmission of any virus particles through food. Examples include frequent hand washing, cleaning of surfaces and utensils, and cooking food to the right temperatures.
The Food World, especially in school cafeterias, is already diligent in hygienic and sanitary practices. They’re constantly trying to stay away from the transmission of food borne pathogens in the course of their normal routines.
Another factor is the biology of viruses. They cannot survive for weeks at a time on surfaces. And unlike bacteria, viruses cannot grow inside food, so the amount of virus in the food would be expected to dwindle with time rather than grow. Also, in theory, this type of virus should not survive well in the acid environment of the stomach. Remember, Covid-19 is a respiratory virus.
What About Cleaning & Disinfecting?
Current evidence suggests that Covid-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. A new analysis found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours. The good news is that Covid-19 can be effectively wiped away by a variety of household disinfectants.
The CDC has issued guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a Best Practices measure for the prevention of Covid-19 and other viral illnesses as well as many bacterial illnesses.
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill or inactivate germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing bacteria or inactivating viruses on surfaces after cleaning, disinfecting can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Covid-19 can be effectively wiped away
by a variety of household disinfectants.
According to the CDC, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions containing at least 70% alcohol and most EPA-registered common household disinfectants should be effective at disinfecting surfaces against the coronavirus. For example, studies show that disinfectants with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) can efficiently inactivate coronaviruses within a minute.
And once again, the CDC recommends thoroughly washing hands often - with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a 70% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer and routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
How Does Soap & Water Make the Virus Inactive?
Under the microscope, coronaviruses appear to be covered with pointy spires giving them the appearance of having a crown or "corona." Beneath the crown is the outer layer of the virus, which is made up of lipids or fats. Getting rid of that outer layer physically inactivates the virus, so it can't bind to and enter human cells.
Imagine that coronavirus is your butter dish, covered with buttery fat. If you try to wash your butter dish with water alone, the butter won’t come off the dish. But a little soap can dissolve the butter. So can some alcohol. That’s why soap and alcohol are extremely effective against dissolving that oily liquid coating of the virus.
Here’s how soap renders Covid-19 inactive. Soap molecules have a head and tail. The head bonds with water, but the tail prefers fats. The tail of the soap molecule is drawn to the fatty outer layer of the virus and begins to pry it open until it splits open, spilling its guts into the soapy water and becoming inactive.
Using warm water with soap gets a much better lather than using cold water – and a good lather is the key. Washing hands thoroughly for about 20 seconds is important to this process because the combination of rubbing, soap molecules and warm water creates more soap bubbles. These soap bubbles disrupt the chemical bonds that allow many bacteria, viruses and other germs, including the Covid-19 virus, to stick to surfaces. Rinsing hands washes everything away.
How Do Alcohol-based Sanitizers Work?
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be as effective as soap if they are used properly. The CDC recommends they contain at least 70% alcohol. Alcohol is effective in rendering Covid-19 inactive, but it doesn't wash away. Soap and water is better if hands or surfaces are visibly contaminated.
It’s important to use enough hand sanitizer and rub it all over hands, between fingers and on the back of hands. Alcohol has different chemical properties than soap. It helps break up the germ membranes, but it needs to get into direct contact with the virus.
Myth Busters: What’s Dirty, Clean - and Easy to Clean?
Did you ever wonder about the cleanliness of the objects we touch every day? Many scientists have. They’ve studied specific strains of virulent bacteria and/or viruses. Since Covid-19 is a new and recent virus, there still aren’t many peer-reviewed articles and papers specifically studying this novel virus. However, the results of past studies can be generalized to include Covid-19 and they certainly tell a (very dirty) story!
Biometric Finger Scanners – Cleaner Than You Think!
Researchers at Purdue University observed that the use of biometric devices was rapidly expanding. They wanted to examine whether touching the small plate glass on the finger scanners would subject users to more germs than they would be exposed to by touching objects such as pens, doorknobs and elevator buttons.
The Purdue University researchers found that the glass surfaces of finger scanners have the same amount of bacteria as on a typical doorknob. The researchers concluded that a person is not any more likely to become ill from touching a biometric device than from a plain, old-fashioned doorknob.
In addition, they found that the majority of bacteria on the finger scanner were transferred to another surface within the first 10 touches. That means that rather than accumulating on the scanner surface, the bacteria travelled on hands. The researchers suggested that washing hands with soap and water or keeping antibacterial solution handy, as well as keeping all surfaces sanitary, are Best Practices in killing bacteria and rendering viruses inactive.
ID Cards & PIN Pads - Even Dirtier Than Public Toilets!
Researchers studied the cleanliness of other objects that we come in contact with every day like ID cards, PIN pads, card readers, wallets, backpacks, purses, cash and even cell phones. Some of these studies took place in hospitals, some in office buildings and others in public places.
All of the studies reviewed compared the types and levels of bacteria and/or viruses to what is lurking on the “grossest of the gross” — public toilets. Why use public toilets as the Gold Standard in filth? Because studies show that most people rank public toilets as #1 in being contaminated and downright filthy compared with all other items that we touch. How can anything be more disgusting than a public toilet, right?
Wrong! Researchers found that PIN pads are even dirtier than public toilets! PIN pads have nooks crannies and many areas to harbor bacteria and viruses. They're also more difficult to clean thoroughly.
Other studies showed that bacteria and viruses cling to ID cards, wallets, purses and backpacks. In a school setting, ID cards are typically stored in wallets, purses, backpacks or on lanyards hung around the students’ necks. They’re often passed from person to person and even end up on the floor and in mouths – in other words, ID cards are dirty and germ-ridden. Even cash was found to be cleaner than ID cards!
In the studies, purses were especially contaminated because they are often placed on bathroom floors and sink areas. Believe it or not, sink areas were found to be even more contaminated that public toilets.
Cellphones were found to be even filthier than cards. We now use our cell phones at the park, in the bathroom, during a meal and while in bed, sometimes all in one day.
Think about it...
During every phone call, the cell phone can come into close contact with strongly contaminated human body areas. For example, cell phones are handed to other people and are contaminated by the phone touching other body areas including mouths, noses and ears. When was the last time you cleaned and disinfected your cell phone? (When was the last time you put your cell phone on the kitchen counter and then made yourself a sandwich?!)
So called “contactless” options aren’t so contactless when you look at the whole picture. These options generally require a card. Dirty cards mean that hands will immediately be contaminated - and so will all the sanitized surfaces those hands touch.
Even good old fashioned visual identification is challenging during physical distancing. (Did you ever try to hear a first grader say his name?) Of course, you still have to deal with the same problems of accuracy, efficiency and accountability that you dealt with pre-Covid-19. The important thing here is to evaluate your entire process, rather than just a piece of it.
In conclusion, we’re not going to give up our cell phones, credit cards and purses. We’re going to adjust our behaviors, learn new techniques and incorporate innovative ideas to keep us all safe and healthy. At identiMetrics, some of our best ideas come from our amazing customers in schools and districts across the United States, and beyond. We’ll continue to share these exceptional ideas with you in the times to come.
School districts continue to see the value in finger scanning biometrics - not in spite of these times – but because of these times. Here's the point: Not only is finger scanning biometrics simple, easy and fast, it also provides the additional value of efficiency, accountability and, most importantly, safety. None of that has changed.
Just like you, we’re adhering to the CDC’s social distancing and sanitation protocols. Just like you, we’re learning as we go. Yes! We’re ALL in this together!
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Anne Marie Dunphy, Ph.D. is the Chief Financial Officer and co-founder of identiMetrics. Anne Marie brings a diverse background of professional expertise to identiMetrics, including Investment Banking and Technology Management, and has served in executive positions for several financial institutions and private companies. Anne Marie owned and operated a successful chain of childcare centers in the Philadelphia area and started her career as a teacher. She received her Masters in Business Administration in Finance & Marketing from Villanova University and her Doctorate in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Grand Canyon University.
Raymond Jay Fry, Ed.D. is the President, CEO and co-founder of identiMetrics. Jay has a wealth of experience, having been a Teacher, a College Dean and the Principal and Senior Administrator for a public school district in the Chicago area where he planned and opened a school for about 1,000 students. He also served as that district’s technology coordinator, playing a significant role in the development of educational and technology policies and instruction. As a published author and an accomplished musician, Jay is also a two-time Fulbright Scholar, holds a list of professional and honorary accomplishments and received his Doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Illinois.
Since co-founding identiMetrics in 2002, both Jay and Anne Marie have had numerous articles published and have made numerous presentations using their expertise in, among other topics, biometrics in education.