With the seasonal shift indoors, consider alternatives to ventilation

With the fall weather turning in the northern hemisphere, more and more people are starting to hunker down, going indoors and avoiding outdoor socially distanced activities. In some regions, bar owners and restaurateurs are wrestling with the issue of COVID-19 spread, and how to make indoor spaces safer for patrons. What’s more, retail locations are struggling with enforcing mask mandates, attempting to balance the wants and desires of a shopping populace with safety guidelines.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently revised its perspective on the aerosolization of COVID-19 droplets, confirming what scientists and researchers already knew: COVID-19 aerosol droplets from coughing or sneezing could stay airborne from minutes to hours and could be transmitted in distances from six feet or more. That means indoor air is rife with germs.

This poses problems for facility managers and business owners alike. And, given that many meteorologists say a climate El Nina effect will result in colder, wetter weather for large swaths of the United States this winter, more people will be sequestered inside this coming season. In fact, the one effective way to combat the novel coronavirus—being outdoors, or in fresh, moving air—may be negated by returning indoors for the more inclement season and weather.

Ventilation for Safety
Indeed, one way to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19—opening windows and allowing for fresh outside air to circulate—isn’t possible in today’s office buildings. They’re built tighter, to make more effective use of HVAC systems and energy efficiency. Simply put, many buildings just don’t have windows that open. And, HVAC systems are often not capable of using bulky HEPA air filters; the filters drag down intake efficiency and make the overall system work harder, negating any energy or cost savings.

Maintaining such health precautions can be confusing. To this end, MIT has developed a browser-based app that helps determine how long people can stay in different rooms, as well as how many people can be accommodated in those rooms. By changing various elements, like the type of ventilation and recirculation rates, facility managers can get a better sense of how COVID-19 can affect occupants. The app is available at https://indoor-covid-safety.herokuapp.com/

Similarly, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has developed a downloadable guide to help facilities determine the proper ventilation for indoor spaces. Ostensibly created for classrooms, the guide also has practical applications for all sorts of other indoor spaces. It’s available at https://schools.forhealth.org/ventilation-guide/

What To Do When You Can’t Open A Window For Ventilation
One way to help mitigate the effects of being inside with inadequate air circulation lies in the installation and use of portable air purifiers. These air cleaning systems can help boost the cleanliness of indoor air, offering a healthier environment for people in enclosed spaces. For example, commercial-grade AeraMax Professional air purifiers are designed for heavy-duty use in offices, retail locations, bars, restaurants—in fact, any indoor space requiring purification.

The AeraMax Professional system removes up to 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants, like flu, viruses, bacteria, allergens, smoke and odors, from enclosed spaces, using a unique four-stage filtration system involving HEPA filters. The adoption of an air purification system like AeraMax Professional may be a boon for businesses whose workers are slowly coming back into office settings after remote working these past months.

And, given that many researchers expect COVID-19 to have a significant impact this fall and winter, focusing on air purification as a precautionary measure may help to keep occupants safer.