Just how much of an impact do HVAC systems play on the transmission of COVID-19? More studies are finding that the role could be critical as North America transitions from summer to fall.
This week, another round of school openings and a steady rise of in-person events kicked off even more speculation about what the future holds for a world living in the midst of an unrelenting pandemic. While case numbers are down as we hit the opening days and weeks of September, it’s important to remember that testing is down as much as 30%. That means health experts have even less information to base health and safety decisions that affect schools and businesses just as they move to reopen.
COVID-19’s ability to be moved throughout rooms and buildings would not make it unique. Diseases like smallpox, flu, measles, and others have all been tested and confirmed to spread through ventilation systems. The key is that spread in such a scenario relies on a virus being aerosolized, a smaller piece of respiratory droplet than what experts currently believe is responsible for much of the outbreak’s spread since the early days of the pandemic.
There are still very few studies that examine the effect of air conditioning and heating systems and the transmission of COVID-19 specifically, but the evidence we do have is troubling. One study confirmed the possibility and found that poorly ventilated spaces could be a contributing factor in its spread. HVAC systems take outdoor air and push it through a building before extracting it; inside the building, it may circulate within a specific room, a specific wing, or a large part of the facility before finally being removed and pushed back outside.
In well-ventilated systems, the air moves quickly and efficiently, without stagnating or setting in specific places along the circuit. The worry is that some of these poorly ventilated spaced, HVAC systems may be taking the exhaled virus from a carrier and distributing it to a wider population. In this scenario, it’s not just the infected person’s immediate neighbors that are in trouble, but a wide web of potential contacts that will need to quarantine, test, and contact trace.
Tools like updated air filters, Needle Point Bipolar Ionization, and more effective HVAC systems can all reduce this risk. Across the country, states are spending millions of dollars to provide essential workers, teachers, and staff with personal protective equipment. They’re also investing heavily in cleaning and sanitization supplies, with HVAC and air purification also getting some support.
Based on the science, which indicates that the highest risk of transmissions comes through respiration, those funds should put a priority on HVAC systems and air purification to protect the most amount of people for the least amount of money.
Ready to look at your HVAC system? Call Keen today for an assessment of your facility.