The guidance on airborne transmission of the coronavirus has been a moving target since the pandemic first took hold, but it appears that the scientists and public health agencies have finally moved toward some agreement.
Airborne transmission refers to the tiny respiratory droplets of COVID-19 known as aerosols that can stay aloft in the air for hours indoors. These “droplet nuclei” left over from a cough or sneeze – or accumulated from people simple talking and breathing – can remain in a room with stagnant air for hours or be spread throughout a sealed building with an HVAC system that only recirculates that same stale air.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its guidance on how Covid-19 is transmitted, stating “short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons, cannot be ruled out.”
WHO provided new guidance after a letter signed by 239 medical and indoor air quality experts was published stating that the virus can be transmitted simply from people breathing and talking inside buildings. One of the experts recently published this article in the New York Times titled, Yes, the Coronavirus Is in the Air.
Study Confirms Aerosol Risk
A recent study released by scientists at the University of Nebraska confirmed in a lab for the first time that people can become infected by COVID-19 aerosols (the study is awaiting peer review but has been posted here).
More studies should and certainly will be done but the evidence is becoming clear: so-called ‘super-spreader’ events where dozens may become infected by a single infectious person are likely caused via aerosol transmission, while transmission via surface contamination is less of a risk, though people should still wash their hands frequently to avoid it as well as wear masks in public.
What is the takeaway from all this for businesses, schools and others still trying to figure how to reopen while keeping their employees and the public safe?
While social distancing, masks and disinfectants can reduce the transmission of the COVID-19, they unfortunately cannot stop airborne transmission of the virus.
According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the best ways to reduce airborne transmission risk is to increase ventilation to dilute the virus volume with fresh air as well as deploy advanced filtration systems using filters rated MERV-13 at a minimum or the highest rating compatible with the ventilation system’s filter rack.
Ensuring Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) remedies should have been taken much more seriously in the past. But moving forward, we need to make society more resilient against future pandemics through IAQ measures, with the additional bonus of keeping us all healthier in general.
The other good news is that IAQ measures are much easier to implement than other transmission mitigation by taking advantage of cloud-based energy management solutions such as mCloud’s AssetCare™ platform already in use by major restaurant chains, bank offices, retail stores and more.
AssetCare continuously measures, monitors and controls HVAC systems to ensure indoor air quality standards are being met. Leveraging data from onsite humidity and air quality sensors, AssetCare remotely optimizes ventilation and building airflow in real time via smart thermostats.
mCloud has also partnered with SecureAire, providers of advanced air filtration systems hospitals and semiconductor manufacturing “clean rooms,” to provide optimum protection from pathogens such as COVID-19.
SecureAire filters are able to capture and kill the tinier aerosol particles. Working in conjunction with AssetCare, the filters can reduce the number of fresh air changes that would otherwise be needed to meet or exceed ASHRAE guidelines and keep building occupants safe. This results in less run time for the HVAC unit, and less energy usage.
The revised WHO guidance on aerosol infection has upended the response by organizations to the coronavirus. However, it has also provided an opportunity to address the unsafe air that has permeated our buildings for some time with new efficient and effective technologies.
Now is the time to embrace these solutions for your organization.
Businesses interested in learning more about the combined AssetCare and SecureAire solution package should visit www.mcloudcorp.com/backtobusiness for more information.