omicron variant

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The Omicron Variant: What to Know

2 minute read

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The world continues to learn more about the latest strain of the COVID-19 virus, known as the Omicron variant. It was first detected in Botswana and South Africa in mid-November 2021, and since has been found around the world, including nearly every corner of the United States.

While many current infections and illnesses are likely attributable to the Delta variant, scientists are concerned about the added threat and rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the weeks and months to come. We continue to learn more each day, and here’s what we know so far.

Transmissibility

Early signs show that the Omicron variant likely spreads more easily than any of the previous strains of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the virus can spread even to those who are vaccinated, though with lesser severity of symptoms than for those who are unvaccinated.

Omicron Symptoms and Severity

The symptoms of Omicron infection appear to be similar to those of previous COVID-19 strains.

We don’t yet have a full picture of the severity of illness associated with Omicron. Its impact will likely be determined both by the characteristics of the variant and by the health and biology of each person who is infected.

Even if mild symptoms are common, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant could lead to overcrowding in hospitals and shortages in treatment supplies.

Vaccination

Several studies indicate that full vaccination plus a booster shot provides strong protection against Omicron infection. But without a booster, vaccines seem to provide much less protection against this variant compared to others.

Still, vaccinations protect against severe symptoms and illness because they both produce antibodies and stimulate the growth of T cells that help fight a particular disease.

Masking and Testing

As colder winter weather in the United States leads more people to gather indoors, two key steps can help avoid further spread of the Omicron variant—masking and testing.

The CDC continues to recommend masking in crowded indoor environments, especially in areas with high transmission rates.

Consider using rapid tests to see if you or anyone you plan to host is currently infected with COVID-19 (regardless of symptoms). If a self-test comes back positive, the infected person should stay home or isolate for 10 days, wear a mask when in contact with others, and call their healthcare provider if symptoms appear and/or worsen.

Ventilation

For information on how mechanical ventilation and Indoor Air Quality can impact the spread of airborne viruses like the Omicron variant, check out this article on the Aprilaire blog.

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Staying Fit: Optimizing Your Indoor Workouts for the Winter

3 minute read

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The ongoing pandemic has made it difficult to find gyms and workout classes that are consistently available, leading many people to create workout areas in their living spaces.

From bikes and treadmills with online classes to instructor-led yoga videos, you have endless options for at-home indoor workouts to keep you fit and busy throughout the cold winter months.

By finding the right equipment and optimizing your indoor space, you can get a running start on achieving your fitness goals.

Setting Up a Gym at Home

Tailoring the space you have available to the types of workouts you want to do doesn’t need to require a lot of time or money. With dedicated exercise space, you’ll make it simpler and more fun to get your body moving this winter.

Type of Exercise

What exercises do you most enjoy? Your answer to that question will determine the type of space you need to carve out at home.

For things like yoga or cycling, you’ll need about 10–15 square feet. For weight racks, treadmills, or HIIT workouts (cardio and weights), you’ll need 30 square feet or more.

Available Space

People with homes may have an extra bedroom, an open basement, or some garage space that can serve as a workout room. Bigger spaces can make room for stationary bikes, treadmills, or weight racks.

For anyone in a smaller apartment or shared living space, you may be able to rearrange furniture in the bedroom or living room so that you can roll out a yoga mat or store dumbbells for easy access.

Remember, bodyweight exercises are a great way to work your body without requiring much equipment or space.

Equipment

Once you figure out what exercises you want to do and how much space you have, you can start buying the necessary equipment and deciding where you’ll store it.

Things like resistance bands, yoga mats, and jump ropes can easily be stored in a closet, drawer, or under furniture.

If you have more space, you can set up a squat rack, punching bag, and dumbbell set.

Beyond workout equipment, consider adding a fan, mirror, and dry erase board where you can plan and track your exercises.

Healthy Air for Your Indoor Workout

No matter what exercises you’re doing this winter, make sure your indoor environment is equipped with Healthy Air. Here are some things to consider:

Aprilaire Fresh Air Ventilation: If seeing your breath during an outdoor workout makes you want to move your exercise indoors, no one will blame you. Just make sure to ventilate the air inside by cracking a window and using fans to move the air. Even better, Aprilaire whole-house fresh air ventilation can replace the stale indoor air with fresh air from outside. This is essential with the increased inhalation and exhalation that comes with exercise.

Aprilaire Air Filtration: While you can’t always control the quality of the air outdoors or at the gym, make sure you’re filtering the air that’s coming into your workout space at home. Aprilaire whole-house air purification systems have custom controls, so you can schedule a “cleaning event” for before and after your workout.

Aprilaire Humidity Control: Sweating is the sign of a good workout, but it also adds humidity to your indoor air environment. For maximum comfort, you’ll want to keep the humidity level between 40–60%. Aprilaire whole-house humidifiers are useful when dry winter air zaps moisture, and an Aprilaire whole-house dehumidifier can keep the humidity level in the ideal zone during all your sweat sessions.

Aprilaire Partners Logged In Homepages | Wellness |

Twindemic in the Workplace – Preparing for a Winter with Flu and COVID-19

3 minute read

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The cold and flu season comes around every fall and winter, with the peak typically landing sometime between December and February.

While we know the flu season comes every year and prepare for it with flu shots, this year we face a new challenge that’s being referred to as the “twindemic”—in reference to the simultaneous surges in both the flu virus and the Delta variant of COVID-19. The main concern is that both viruses will overrun hospitals and make it difficult to provide adequate care for everyone who needs it.

Vaccination rates for COVID-19 vary across the country, but most places are reopening areas like schools, restaurants, and offices to in-person activities.

Focusing on the workplace, let’s look at how office life will be impacted by the twindemic and consider some ways to keep you and your family safe this fall and winter.

Returning to the Office

The fall and winter of 2021–2022 represent society’s second time of dealing with both the flu virus and COVID-19. But last year, social distancing and masking helped prevent a disastrous outbreak, as we saw historically low levels of influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

This year, COVID-19 vaccinations have allowed many businesses to return to in-person activities, and mask mandates vary both by region and individual office policies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a 10-step checklist for preventing the spread of the flu in the workplace, and many of the recommendations can apply to COVID-19 as well.

Here are a few key steps that management can take:

  1. Encourage all employees to get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster shot, when applicable)
  2. Consider hosting a flu vaccine clinic in the workplace, and/or provide resources and time off for employees to get vaccinated
  3. Review office policies around sick leave and allow workers to stay home and/or work remotely when they’re feeling sick
  4. Encourage preventive actions and provide resources like face masks, tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, and/or hand sanitizer
  5. Create an environment where people feel comfortable acknowledging the risks, and support employees who need to care for sick family members or children if schools close

For individual employees, here are some steps to consider to keep yourself safe at work and avoid bringing illnesses to your home:

  1. Get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. Research has shown that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks
  2. If you feel sick, stay home. If you have a persistent fever or other symptoms, schedule time to see a doctor. Telehealth services may be most helpful in those situations
  3. Make a habit out of monitoring your health, and don’t hesitate to inform your employer if you become ill or need to stay home
  4. If you can, plan ahead for any potential time away from work or any time that your children may be out of school. The availability of in-person services may be impacted if flu or COVID-19 rates start to rise
  5. If you need to miss time for illness and your job doesn’t allow remote work or flexible sick leave, review government resources that can help

Stop the Spread of the Flu and COVID-19

We know that COVID-19 spreads from close contact and airborne transmission. Because Healthy Air is essential in staying safe through the upcoming twindemic, here are some Aprilaire resources that you can analyze for your home and workplace.

How Dirty Indoor Air Spreads Illness

The Benefits of Mechanical Ventilation

How the Aprilaire Healthy Air System™ Can Help

Humidity and COVID-19

St. Vincent de Paul

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2021: Aprilaire’s Good Neighbor Values

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We take the importance of caring for others to heart at Aprilaire. We believe we have a purpose beyond the individual work we do and that being a successful company also means “Being a Good Neighbor.” It’s one of our core values, and something we put into action each year.

We remain committed to helping our local communities in a number of ways, including financial contributions and volunteering. In the past, we’ve raised funds to provide pack-n-plays to mothers in need, volunteered at local blood drives, and held various donation drives throughout the year.

While our partnership opportunities may look different in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re excited to continue our work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, whose mission statement reads:

“A membership organization, the Society began working in Madison in 1925 with two parish-based groups of members serving their neighbors in need. Today, programs the Society operates in Dane County include a large customer-choice food pantry, a charitable pharmacy, storage for the goods of persons who are homeless, seven thrift stores offering direct charity, housing at Port St. Vincent de Paul and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton House, and several other forms of assistance for people struggling with poverty.”

We’ve been working with St. Vincent de Paul – Madison since 2014, giving us a number of incredible opportunities to give back and live out our mission of being Good Neighbors.

We believe the work they’re doing to provide assistance for our community is more important than ever right now, which is why it’s our honor to be a 2021 Platinum Sponsor for St. Vincent de Paul’s 6th Annual Care Café fundraising breakfast on May, 5th 2021. The theme is “Love Made Visible.”

They’re going virtual this year, which means they have unlimited capacity to reach their goal of $140,000. If you live in Dane County, we encourage you to attend the virtual event and support our neighbors in need through your contributions to the food pantry, free pharmacy, and housing programs.

 Click here for more information on St. Vincent de Paul – Madison to see how you can get involved.

Or find a charity in your area that you may be able to connect with to make an impact.

flights

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Experts Say Flights Can Resume, But Bring Increased Risks

2 minute read

Air quality experts say that it is safe to resume flying, but travelers must take advanced precautions before traveling like taking shorter flights when possible, wearing masks, and social distancing. 

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, makes the case that airplanes do not make you sick. In fact, airplanes have comparable levels of air filtration and fresh air ventilation to a health care facility

Flights May Be Less Comfortable With Recommendations

He argues that airlines should continue disinfecting high-touch areas such as armrests and tray tables, stop in-flight food service, mandate mask-wearing, and ask patrons to keep their above ventilation fan on throughout the flight. While these adjustments make flying less enjoyable, they can help reduce in-flight virus transmission. Masks are currently required on public transportation. 

Allen is not the only one saying it is safe to resume flying. 

‘Safer Than Eating At A Restaurant’

Linsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, in a CNN article writes, “When HEPA ventilation systems are running on a plane and everyone is masked, the risk of Covid-19 is greatly reduced and makes air travel on a big jet safer than eating at a restaurant.”

Activities Create Biggest Risks

She and Allen argue that the biggest risks in airline travel stem from activities like the pre-flight boarding process or when a flight is delayed and people are stuck on the plane. Marr, who has been wearing an air quality monitor when she travels, said CO2 levels are elevated during these aforementioned activities and are indicative of a lack of fresh air ventilation. 

Marr told CNN that “A CO2 (carbon dioxide) level of 3,000 ppm means that for every breath I take in, about 7% of the air is other people’s exhaled breath…like drinking someone else’s backwash!”

The airport also presents other problems for travelers.

Allen suggests airports create more touchless experiences, upgrade their HVAC system, and require masks. Some updates have already been implemented in some airports or will be implemented in the future. 

Other experts suggest carrying your own personal hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and sticking to shorter flights

Even though there are risks to flying, Marr and Allen say you are clear for takeoff this summer

American Lung Association

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Breathing Healthy Air: Interview with the American Lung Association

4 minute read

At Aprilaire, we encourage breathing Healthy Air because we know it benefits your overall health. The American Lung Association knows it too. That’s why Aprilaire air filters are the National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association*, playing a key role in the fight to improve lung health and prevent lung disease.

We got to interview National Senior Vice President of Development Sally Draper about the importance of Healthy Air and how both Aprilaire and the American Lung Association are working together to help you Breathe the Fullness of Life.

Could you introduce yourself for the readers and tell us about why you chose a career with the American Lung Association?

“I joined the Lung Association in 2014 because I was attracted to its comprehensive mission—to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Every day we help Americans breathe easier through our efforts to fund innovative research, advocate for policies that protect our lungs, and educate patients, caregivers, providers, and the public with science-backed information. We were founded more than 115 years ago, and the needs are greater today than ever before, including the youth vaping epidemic, climate change, and COVID-19!”

Can you tell us about the American Lung Association’s mission?

“The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Our work is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; champion clean air for all; improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and create a tobacco-free future. Whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco, or advocating for laws that protect the air we breathe, the work of the American Lung Association helps to save lives every day.”

How did Aprilaire and the American Lung Association come to work together in the first place? What does that relationship look like presently?

“Aprilaire and the American Lung Association forged a new relationship in 2018. We quickly realized how much we had in common. Our partnership was developed as we saw an opportunity to educate and help more consumers improve the air in their homes to create a healthier environment.

Since 2020, Aprilaire has been a Proud Partner of the Lung Association with its 4” residential air filters. Additionally, Aprilaire joined the Lung Association as our FY20 National Fight For Air Climb Partner For Healthy Air. The company has also supported the Lung Association’s “Stand Up For Clean Air” campaign. As part of this initiative, we are driving conversations around air quality, climate, and health. The Lung Association invited people to share their #MyCleanAirStory—knowing that when people realize climate and air quality are impacting the health of their neighbors, friends, and loved ones—they are more willing to act. Aprilaire provided prizes for the #MyCleanAirStory contest, including one grand prize of a whole-home Indoor Air Quality upgrade (the Aprilaire Healthy Air System™) and nine Aprilaire Room Air Purifiers. This year, the company stepped up once again to sponsor the Wisconsin Fight For Air Climb in Milwaukee. Also in 2021, the Lung Association welcomed Dale Philippi, President and CEO of Research Products Corporation, Aprilaire’s parent company, to the Lung Association’s Wisconsin Leadership Board of Directors.”

Tell us about the Fight For Air Climb.

“The American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb is the nation’s premier stair climbing challenge. At 38 events nationwide, children and adults of all ages participate in this celebratory stair-climbing adventure. Pre-pandemic, the Fight For Air Climb was held in several of our country’s most iconic skyscrapers. This year, the Lung Association invited participants outdoors for a one-of-a-kind adventure to support healthy lungs and clean air. In fact, Dale was among the company’s team of more than 50 employees that climbed the stairs at Milwaukee’s American Family Field on May 22nd, proving he puts his feet, time, and talent behind causes he supports.

Aprilaire has been a stalwart partner in the Fight For Air Climb, promoting the event to employees, customers, trade partners, family, and friends. Through this unique vehicle, the company is engaging individuals of all ages to understand and celebrate the importance of Healthy Air.”

Aprilaire’s air filters are a National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association. How do you feel our mission aligns with yours?

“Our CEO, Harold Wimmer, has said, ‘Breathing should not be an uphill battle, but for many it is… no one should have to fight for air on a daily basis.’ Similarly, Dale has declared, ‘We believe everyone deserves to breathe Healthy Air.’ As a National Proud Partner, Aprilaire’s mission to enhance everyone’s health by improving the air in their homes aligns very closely with that of the American Lung Association, champion of clean air for all.”

What are the benefits of breathing Healthy Air and what are everyday things that people can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life?

“Clean air is essential for healthy lungs. The American Lung Association works to ensure that the air we breathe is clean and safe from harmful pollution. In fact, every year we publish our State of the Air Report, which looks at two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants, ozone and fine particulate matter. Our 2021 State of the Air Report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans—over 135 million people—are living in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

One of the most important things you can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life is to keep sources of pollution out of your home. Check out these commonsense tips on Lung.org. Additionally, ventilation helps reduce indoor air pollution, but it works best if paired with keeping known sources of air pollution out of the building. For tips on how to use ventilation to protect your lung health, check out our section on Ventilation: How Buildings Breathe.”

Fight for Healthy Air

At Aprilaire, we believe everyone deserves to Breathe the Fullness of Life, and we’re not the only ones that feel this way. Through our Proud Partnership with the American Lung Association, we aim to fill every home with Healthy Air. Both Aprilaire and the Lung Association believe that breathing Healthy Air should be available to everyone, and maintaining healthy Indoor Air Quality is an important step for your lung health. Read more about our partnership and the efforts of the American Lung Association on their website.

*Disclaimer: The American Lung Association does not endorse any product, device, or service.