COVID-19 has come under scrutiny by health experts. The virus transmits from coughs, sneezes, and talking through projected aerosols. These projected aerosols enter air streams. This becomes especially problematic in tightly enclosed spaces where the air is recirculated without proper filtration, ventilation, and humidification, or a Healthy Air System™. This makes reopening problematic for many businesses across the country.
An associate professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, Erin Bromage, Ph.D., found most transmission has occurred in tightly enclosed indoor spaces such as restaurants, funeral homes, churches, and nursing homes. Other scientists have found one of the first places of transmission was a restaurant in Wuhan, China.
CBS News recently released a report on restaurants and the way we can protect ourselves as we venture out of our homes and back into public dining spaces.
Protecting Yourself During the Reopening
While using facemasks can be used in certain places and can help reduce transmission, it is not the perfect solution. Masks cannot be worn while dining and it is not a good substitute for proper filtration, ventilation, and humidification. States and local officials, as well as business owners, continue to weigh the pros and cons of requiring masks.
Companies are looking at different ways to implement proper indoor air quality strategies as states are reopening across the country. Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors whether inside their own home, work, restaurants, bars, malls, grocery stores, hardware stores, and/or churches.
Without a vaccine, there is no proper way to fully protect yourself against COVID-19. Proper air filtration, humidification, and ventilation can help reduce the amount of harmful airborne particulates circulated throughout the air stream. By installing the right healthy air products, your own forced air HVAC system can help. Air filtration with a MERV 16 filter can be installed as part of a home’s HVAC system and can capture up to 96% of airborne contaminants that pass through its filter. This can be especially crucial in situations where people are placed in situations where social distancing is not possible and the air is being recirculated among a large group of people. Scientists are still trying to calculate the amount of time these aerosols stay in the air.
Ventilation helps further dilute contaminants by bringing in fresh air from the outside. There are several ways of providing filtered air through either natural ventilation, supply ventilation, or mixed-mode ventilation. Air that passes naturally through windows, doors, or cracks in the foundation is natural ventilation. There is no filtration process with this air. It is the same air that is outside and serves to help dilute the stale air of indoor spaces. If you’re near a factory or a highway, the outside air is polluted. Some cities are experimenting with increasing the outdoor dining spaces of restaurants since it is clear that COVID-19 is far less transmittable in outside air than it is indoor air.
Supply ventilation uses a fan to bring in air from the outside. This air is properly filtered and humidified. The poor indoor air is also pushed out and replaced by the outside air.
Mixed-mode ventilation uses both natural and supply ventilation to treat stale indoor air. Ventilated air also forces droplets to land on surfaces more quickly and pushes air into the HVAC system’s return air ducts to reduce airborne virus transmission.
Thirdly, proper humidification is an important step in treating indoor air. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends keeping your humidity between 30-60 percent. Anything lower than that results in dried out nasal passages, dry skin, scratchy throat, and a weakened immune system making it easier for airborne viruses to get into your body. Evidence suggests that viruses last longer on surfaces and are transmitted easier in overly dry air conditions. Anything above that 30-60% range results in the perfect breeding ground for airborne viruses, pests, and mold/mildew.
How Reopening Businesses with a Healthy Air System Affects Employees
Another factor to consider for reopening business owners is that healthy air is not just to the benefit of the consumer, but also for the employees. Harvard’s Building Science Program has found that a healthy workplace fosters better workers and a better company. Productivity and creativity increases and blood pressure lowers. Better employee wellness is a major recruiting pitch to prospective employees. Extended breaks, snacks, and healthy indoor air are all important benefits and pitches for your employees.
Indoor Air Quality Is A Long-Term Investment
Outside of the purview of the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor air quality is still important. It does help to reduce airborne viruses such as the flu or common cold, mold and mildew, dust, and other allergens. Cooking and other interior spaces release Volatile Organic Compounds. These VOCs contain toxic gases.
A Healthy Air System reduces odors making it harder for guests to decipher if you live with a pet or last night’s dinner.
The air inside our homes continues to be much worse than the air outside our homes. The EPA estimates the air inside to be 5 to 10 times worse than the air outside. To make matters worse, we are spending more time inside and our homes are being more tightly-built. This makes it harder for fresh air to get in the home without the use of a supply ventilation system. Polluted air can lead to major health problems such as cardiovascular issues, cancer, respiratory infections, and cognitive impairments. Air pollution is one of the burgeoning health concerns.
Indoor Air Quality Adds Wellness to Your Life
Just as we seek wellness in all parts of our life from eating well, exercising, meditation, indoor air is an important part of this procedure. Just like in all of those other fields, data plays an important role in this field. Aprilaire’s IAQ systems allow you to monitor your home’s IAQ to adjust your temperature, relative humidity, and fresh air ventilation systems. Panasonic has released a system that can help monitor your home’s indoor air in real-time. Although the data may be helpful in determining a problem, it has little relevant value if you do not have a system set-up to tackle those problems.
To completely protect yourself, make sure you continue to sanitize high-traffic areas in your homes and businesses. Also continue to wash your hands and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
As states and more business are reopening, COVID-19 will continue to be scrutinized by governments, businesses, and the general population. It’s hard to determine what normal will look like and what happens if there is another jump in cases. It is possible restaurants and other public spaces may have to advertise the health of their indoor air. One thing is certain though, it’s that Healthy air is crucial for everyone to live a happy and healthy life.