Ventilation Key to Preventing Spread of COVID-19 Indoors

With schools and businesses reopening this fall, experts say proper ventilation can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus indoors where many outbreaks have occurred.

Epidemiologists say the aerosol transmission of the virus can be mitigated by a variety of methods.

Dr. Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist and professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said, while you can get the virus if an infected person coughs or sneezes nearby, you can also get sick if you are in an enclosed space for a long period of time where the virus has been released by someone just breathing into the air. In an article for Occupational Health & Safety, Bromage said a single sneeze can release 30,000 droplets.

In wide open spaces, the virus might be diluted and quickly dispersed, but in enclosed spaces the concentration can increase the risk of infection, according to FiveThirtyEight.

According to The Wall Street Journal, improving ventilation in businesses and classrooms can reduce the risk of viral transmission. Experts recommend changing the air four to six times an hour by introducing more outside air and enhancing filtration.

Here are some tips:

  • If you do not have air conditioning, open windows and doors to create a cross breeze. Researchers at the University of Oregon and the University of California published a report that said people should open windows rather than rely on air conditioning systems to stem the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Place fans inside open windows to increase air flow. Position them in the room to blow in fresh air and remove stale air.
  • Add portable air purifiers with HEPA filters to change the air. Place them strategically around the room.
  • If you have air conditioning, use a high energy filter. According to FiveThirtyEight, filters can trap particles that contain the virus or use electrostatic attraction to zap them out of the air. By using specialized filters in your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, you can improve the safety of indoor air. However, to neutralize the indoor air transmission of coronavirus, you would need a filter with a high enough MERV, or minimum energy reporting value to trap the tiny particles. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, your filter should have a MERV of 13 or higher.

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