The warm summer months have given us a slight advantage in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19. Being able to dine outdoors, visit at a distance outdoors and enjoy time in parks and wilderness all have let us use open spaces and fresh air to thwart transmission of the virus. But now colder weather is on the horizon and we’re headed back indoors where our risk goes up.
The good news is that after seven months of learning about how the coronavirus spreads, we now know more about how to make indoor spaces safer. And that means now is the time to take the steps we can to improve indoor air quality and do what we can to keep the virus in check.
Public health officials have been concerned that fall weather and return to indoor environments will cause a spike in COVID-19 infections because people cannot spread out as much indoors and because air doesn’t circulate inside the way it does outdoors, meaning it is much easier to inhale the infected respiratory droplets that spread the virus.
But heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialists have advice for all of us about how to make our indoor environments safer.
We need to make sure the HVAC systems in our homes, offices and other indoor spaces are clean and functioning efficiently. We need to make sure the air filtration in our system is effectively removing particles from the indoor air. And we need to do what we can to encourage more air flow through indoor spaces so that fresh outdoor air replaces indoor air regularly.
This is important in our homes, but it is most crucial in buildings such as workplaces, schools and other public buildings where strangers will meet and where large groups of people may come into contact with one another.
Businesses and authorities responsible for public buildings should consult with licensed HVAC technicians to make sure their HVAC systems are functioning adequately to prevent the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.
And state and federal authorities should look for opportunities to use grant money or other funding to help business owners and local governments afford this critical public health work.
We have time now to prepare for the cold weather months, and we have the knowledge about how coronavirus spreads that we need to make improvements that can help prevent contagion. Now is the time to do the work that can slow the virus and save lives.