The connection between COVID-19 and indoor air quality
Is better indoor air quality key to COVID-19 prevention? There are more than a few reasons why outdoor gatherings were held more frequently than indoor gatherings during the height of the pandemic. Why?
COVID viral concentrations in an indoor space’s air may remain potent enough to infect a new victim even after the party’s actually over. SARS-CoV-2 can spread by close contact through large droplet spray and indirect contact via contaminated objects. The possibility of transmission through inhalation of infected saliva aerosol particles is growing. Breathing, talking, laughing, coughing, and sneezing generates these particles. To minimize the potential risk of airborne virus transmission, aerosol particle concentrations should be kept low.
What is the best way to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from taking over your home? Good ventilation and a modern HVAC system.
The CDC and the EPA believe that ventilation mitigation is one of the most effective ways to reduce COVID exposure by way of contaminated air—at home, at work, at school, and even in your business. Here’s what you need to know.
What does indoor air quality have to do with COVID-19?
The CDC acknowledges that COVID-19 is a largely airborne illness. Its primary mode of transmission is through the exchange of COVID-positive respiratory fluids, which may be inhaled by another person after you or anybody else coughs or sneezes in proximity.
Sometimes, droplets of things like saliva or mucus spray out at a scale small enough to be a near-aerosol, enabling these droplets to hang around in the air, all while carrying SARS-CoV-2. In fact, it may even be possible for extremely fine saliva particles to infect a new person at distances greater than six feet under some circumstances.
According to both the CDC and the EPA, a multi-layered approach to COVID prevention indoors can and should include a plan for preventing air contamination, as well as for the purification of air that has already been contaminated by the virus.
How to improve air quality and prevent COVID transmission
The CDC has a ton of awesome indoor air quality tips available to peruse online. We recommend trying anything on this list out if your own home air quality concerns you.
The underlying principle when it comes to COVID prevention: an infected individual coughing in an enclosed, confined area fills the air with infected droplets, which diffuse themselves throughout the space. Any homeowner or business owner may employ the following tactics against COVID transmission through the air:
- Confirm that the building’s ventilation system, including your heating and air conditioning, is functional, up-to-date, and free of contaminants
- Ventilate every room in the building with open, screened windows and entryways whenever possible—this prevents stagnant air from collecting in one part of your home and keeps the air flowing freely between rooms
- Use fans, air circulators, stove exhaust hoods, bathroom ventilation systems, and air purifiers to keep the air in each room moving, dry, and free of harmful particulates
- Exploit your home’s HVAC system, which can be an incredible resource when in good working order and when outfitted with the right accompaniments, such as a pleated filter
In schools especially, good ventilation is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s top tips for maintaining a healthy, safe learning environment.
This report, courtesy of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that approximately half of the school districts in our nation are in need of HVAC renovation, updates, or replacement. If your home, school, or business fits the bill, please get in touch with your local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals for what may be a much-needed upgrade.
Other strategies for improving indoor air quality
When evaluating the air quality in any building, you can use the CDC’s indoor air quality tool, which can help you assess your own situation and make the appropriate adjustments.
Aside from these techniques and others, you might be able to improve COVID air quality by trying out any of these best practices before indoor air quality becomes a real issue:
- Whenever possible, spend time outdoors instead of indoors, especially when gathering in a group setting or at length with others
- Be sure to cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, washing your hands shortly after
- When gathering with others, minimize actions that tend to release more respiratory droplets than usual – singing, shouting, and even exercising are all great examples
- Ensure that every member of your group is wearing a mask, which is especially important for any gathering indoors, especially during a COVID surge
Aside from these friendly reminders, the most current CDC Guidelines also urges all people to maintain safe physical distance in all the cases mentioned above. It’s not always easy, but the more room you give each other, the less likely your group is to “share germs” through the air.
It sounds gross – we’re right there with you on that one! The facts, the data, and the science stands, however. When in doubt, we always recommend playing it safe. If the answers aren’t exactly obvious, however, you’re always invited to get in touch with our team for the latest on how to keep you and everybody you know safe and COVID-free.