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Consumers snap up PhoneSoap to sanitize cell phones as coronavirus outbreak spreads

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As financial institutions grapple with historic levels of volatility they face logistical challenges in preparing for remote work. CNN's Clare Sebastian reports.

Posted: Mar 12, 2020 8:10 AM
Updated: Mar 12, 2020 8:10 AM

Whatever you touch with your hands -- food, bacteria, dust -- can be transferred to your cell phone, making it a mobile petri dish possibly teeming with germs. So there's a growing discussion about how to keep phones sanitized as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread worldwide.

And that's why sales of a device-cleaning machine called PhoneSoap are soaring.

PhoneSoap's products, which kill germs on phones by bathing them in UV light, haven't been tested against COVID-19. But revenue so far this month is about 20 times higher than in the same period last year, co-founder Dan Barnes told CNN Business on March 10.

The company sold out of its devices in early March, but it's currently taking pre-orders that will ship between April 15 and May 30, according to its website.

"[The coronavirus] isn't something we celebrate, but it has definitely raised awareness that phones or hard surfaces can harbor bacteria for days and that it's important to clean them," Barnes said.

Phone hygiene matters generally because research has shown our mobile devices carry pathogens that might include antibiotic-resistant bacteria, said Mia Lieberman, a clinical veterinarian at Harvard Medical School who has tested the PhoneSoap's effectiveness. These germs can pose a risk, especially for people with preexisting health conditions, she added.

PhoneSoap's product lineup includes the PhoneSoap 3, a rectangular box with a UV light inside that fits all smartphones and most cases. The company is also selling a new, larger unit called HomeSoap that can accommodate more items.

PhoneSoap co-founder Wes LaPorte said the company has been able to cope with increased demand because it splits manufacturing between Vietnam and China, so factory closures in that country haven't caused supply chain bottlenecks.

How it works

The kind of light PhoneSoap uses, called UV-C, damages bacteria and viruses so they can't replicate, Lieberman said.

PhoneSoap kills 99.99% of household germs, including E. coli and salmonella, according to the firm's website.

In a study, Lieberman tested it against bacteria and found it to be effective. But she noted that eliminating COVID-19 would likely require a much larger UV-C dose than what commercially available devices like PhoneSoap emit, based on the data scientists have on other coronaviruses such as SARS.

To get that much UV-C light intensity, Lieberman said, you'd have to leave your phone in the tested PhoneSoap model for over two hours.

"I don't think consumers should rely on a UV device that's commercially available to eradicate coronavirus on their phone," Lieberman said. "I don't think we have the data to know how much it helps."

PhoneSoap disagreed. "Only the CDC and those working to contain COVID-19 have access to this novel strain of coronavirus to test, so PhoneSoap can't say with certainty that our products kill COVID-19. That being said, we do know that COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, similar to Influenza A (H1N1) which we have tested and know that PhoneSoap kills," the company said.

LaPorte, the company's co-founder, acknowledged that PhoneSoap hadn't been tested against COVID-19 or SARS, though in his view it's one of the measures people can take to contain the outbreak.

Lieberman said users should consider wiping their phones with products that are at least 60% alcohol, in line with guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She suggested checking with phone makers first, however. On Monday, Apple said it was safe to clean hard, nonporous surfaces on its devices, such as displays and keyboards, with a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. The company warned against using bleach, allowing moisture to get into openings or submerging iPhones in cleaning products.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
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Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
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Vermillion225850
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Parke212020
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Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
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