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‘We’re going into the trenches’: El Pasoan makes unique pivot after losing job during pandemic

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- An El Paso man made a unique pivot in his career after losing his job at a hotel valet during the pandemic.

"We had an idea. I didn't want to bring my family to a sick house. So I said, 'Hey, you know what? Let's start, you know, promoting safer and cleaner, an environment for us," Joe Ozaeta said.

Ozaeta co-founded EP Disinfecting Bros during the middle of the pandemic. The company offers cleaning and disinfecting services for homes and cars. Ozaeta said it took about six months for training and certification to prepare for the physical risks of the new line of work.

"We're not the hospital. We're going into the home where it came from," Ozaeta said. "We're going into the trenches. We've been practicing this since the business has opened."

Ozaeta credits the PPE as the reason he and his partners have stayed healthy.

Still, no training could have prepared them for the emotional toll.

"We've been to customers to where, you know, the rooms have been isolated since the day the grandfather died and we're the first ones in," he said. "Hitting the mattresses, to the sheets, to their clothes that they wore. It hits us. It really did hit us a lot."

There is limited data to show exactly how much of a business boom disinfecting companies have experienced during COVID-19. Nationwide, many have reported a surge in new business.

While the CDC says it is possible for people to be infected with COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it, it's not thought to be the main way the virus is spread. A local infectious disease expert says wearing a mask and social distancing are still the most important precautions to avoid getting sick, but says surfaces should not be ignored.

"We have to just keep in mind that one of these variants that are now becoming more common in the United States are more transmissible and therefore any potential surface that is contaminated will also be part of that risk," said Dr. Armando Meza, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Dr. Meza said risk can vary based on the type of surface, the temperature and how long the virus has been lingering.

For some, the service can provide peace of mind.

"They love it. They feel that the house is lifted. They feel that they can go inside the rooms. Again, they feel more comfortable going through their sheets and stuff," Ozaeta said. "The house feels lifted. They feel better to wake up. They feel better to breathe inside the air that they're in, in their house."

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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