BEVERLY HILLS—As hotels are reopening amidst the coronavirus pandemic, safety is a top priority. The Beverly Hilton and The Waldorf Astoria are using a new kind of protection against the virus: a three-foot-tall robot named Kennedy.

Kennedy is a machine that emits intense, germ-killing ultraviolet light. It is made by the San Antonio-based company Xenex Disinfection Services, who initially created these robots to prevent healthcare associated infections.

Recently, the Texas BioMedical Research Institute tested the robot against the virus that causes COVID-19. The results showed a 99.99% reduction in the virus with exposure to the ultraviolet light for 2 minutes at 1 meter for hard surfaces.

“The robot creates a high-energy pulse of UV light that gets into the DNA and the RNA, the genetic material of viruses and bacteria, and basically makes it so they can’t replicate anymore,” said Dr. Mark Stibich, Xenex’s founder and Chief Science Officer. “By pulsing the light, we’re able to create very, very high intensity. So in a microsecond we’re hitting [those] viruses and bacteria with all sorts of high-energy photons and that really messes up their genetic materials.”

The robot’s disinfecting abilities will take place in addition to the work of the regular cleaning staff at the hotel. Not only will the machine clean the hotel rooms, but it will also sanitize guests’ luggage and packages.

Xenex requires purchasers of their product to receive training on the proper usage of the robot. UV-C, the ultraviolet light that the machine uses to kill germs, is extremely harmful to humans if there is direct exposure at high intensities. If exposed to the eye, cataracts or even a loss of vision can ensue.

UV light has been used as decontaminator in the healthcare industry for about a hundred years, according to James Malley, professor of civil and environmental engineer at the University of New Hampshire. However, this tool is now spreading beyond the healthcare industry to the hospitality industry and public transportation.

According to ABC News, a subway yard in Queens is also using UV light as a disinfectant in its trains.