Airborne Transmission in Tight Spaces
Medical professionals from the preeminent organizations on public health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization have started changing their stance that COVID-19 is airborne. This is important news. Prior to this, doctors hypothesized that COVID-19 was transmitted by droplets larger than aerosols and primarily through contaminated surfaces.
Unlike these heavier droplets, airborne diseases can be picked up in airstreams, can travel farther than heavier droplets, and require different prevention strategies.
For the sake of comparison and understanding, heavier droplets are like a bowling ball and smaller airborne droplets are like a ping-pong ball. The wind or airstream is going to have a greater impact on redirecting a ping-pong ball than it is a bowling ball. Subsequently, airborne droplets can be caught up in the airstream and recirculated throughout a poorly ventilated building. This recent development has fast-tracked the recent requirement for wearing masks while indoors.
A New York Times model shows how these droplets can spread from you to others around you.
Loud and Crammed Indoor Spaces
Loud and crammed indoor spaces like bars are also more vulnerable to airborne transmission. People are congregating in tight spaces and because of the noise levels; they have to talk louder thus expelling droplets more rapidly and forcefully.
The same thing can be said about weddings, church services, birthday parties, and funerals. These settings usually have people talking, singing, laughing, and crying in small indoor spaces leading to a higher chance of transmission and infection. Many of these same principles extend to office spaces, schools, healthcare settings, and other indoor places with large gatherings that require face-to-face communication.
For safe social gatherings, health professionals recommend heading outdoors. Despite the infinite amount of ventilation provided by the outdoors, droplets can still start concentrating after a long enough time of talking, laughing, etc. increasing the possibility of infection. For this, health professionals recommend staying distanced, moving, limiting guests, and wearing a mask.
If you are not staying in the same spot, like moving through a grocery store or walking, then your rate of infection decreases. Doctors are concerned with the dosage of droplets that leads to infection. As of the publication of this blog, doctors have not specified a dosage rate required for infection.
Doctors are also still exploring the differences between super-spreaders and less efficient spreaders. Superspreaders can rapidly spread coronavirus to others even if they are asymptomatic.
To help deter infections by asymptomatic superspreaders, cities and states are implementing mask mandates for indoor spaces since they help filter out larger droplets and can reduce spread. Many major retailers like Target, Walmart, Kroger, and Aldi are also requiring masks in stores, even if the local government has not mandated it. Many other retailers have erected Plexiglas barriers between shoppers and workers. Check with your local store to see their current mandates.
Detering Airborne Transmission with an Air Filter
Besides those physical barriers, another weapon to combat airborne transmission is an air filter. An air filter can capture these small particles and trap them, limiting their spread. MERV 16 filters capture up to 96% of virus-sized airborne particles and virus-sized airborne particles*. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends a minimum MERV rating of 13 to neutralize airborne viruses.
Using these filters in conjunction with an air purifier, helps you quickly change out the air. This process helps reduce the spread of airborne viruses. Filters are critical in helping capture those droplets circulating in the airstream. They do not have a 100 percent success rate and virus-laden droplets can still circulate even with an air purifier.
Experts are also still trying to determine how long the virus lives on surfaces. This determines the risk involved in changing out those virus-filled air filters.
Protecting yourself against COVID-19 and other airborne viruses require a multi-part approach. Social distancing, frequently washing hands and surfaces, shielding your mouth and nose with a mask, and installing an air purifier are the best methods to keep you and your family safe.
Healthy Air System™
Aprilaire also offers a multi-part approach to indoor air quality in your home. This approach helps protect against airborne viruses and other airborne pollutants like mold, mildew, dander, and odors.
Along with air filtration, we recommend humidity control and fresh air ventilation to best attack those indoor air quality issues as part of our Healthy Air System™. This suite of solutions uses humidity control to impact those airborne pollutants’ living environment. Air filtration and fresh air ventilation combine to capture airborne pollutants and bring in fresh air to reduce the proliferation of airborne viruses.
Medical professionals are still learning more about this novel virus. Until there is a vaccine, it is best to take as many precautions to protect yourself and your family. You can help protect yourself by wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing hands and surfaces frequently. This virus has a mortality rate of around 3 to 4 percent and for those that have recovered; it can have long-lasting health impacts as it attacks your heart and brain. To stay-up-to-date, continue to monitor your local and state health department, and follow CDC guidelines.