January 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the first recorded case of COVID-19 in the U.S. Since then over 400,000 Americans have died of the disease with over 25 million reported cases. Much has been learned about the virus in the past year. For example, we now understand that a high viral load of COVID-19 exposure affects the severity of the symptoms.
Not everyone who is exposed to the SARS CoV-2 virus experiences the same symptoms or severity of symptoms. We don’t have enough data yet on the long-term consequences resulting from the coronavirus. However, we do know that people at high risk suffer worse symptoms while some suffer no symptoms at all. We also know that a higher exposure leads to worse symptoms. Other factors at play are genes, age, and preexisting conditions that put certain individuals at higher risk. For all of these reasons, facilities managers must be diligent in preventing the spread of the coronavirus in their buildings.
The Dangers of a High Viral Load
A high viral load, or high COVID-19 exposure, means the virus is attacking more cells. This puts a great burden on the immune system. We know that the coronavirus spreads as an aerosol that stays suspended in the air for several hours. Therefore, face masks protect against inhalation of these liquid particulates. In fact, according to Dr. Ilhem Messaoudi, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California Irvine, wearing a mask prevents up to 70 percent of transmission.
Mask wearing is an important weapon in the fight against the SARS CoV-2 virus because it reduces the viral load released by an infected person. Of course, mask-wearing policies, as recommended by the CDC, must be implemented along with social distancing guidelines. Building managers need a plan for changing traffic patterns and adjusting workstations within the building as well. These measures require the cooperation of staff and building visitors, however, managers must also focus on mechanical systems as a way to reduce COVID-19 exposure in buildings.
Improve Ventilation and Reduce COVID-19 Exposure
Improving ventilation in buildings reduces the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This is true for healthcare facilities, government buildings, schools, and commercial businesses. Proper ventilation brings in cleaner air thus diluting the virus. It flushes bio-aerosols out of spaces quickly. The first step in improving ventilation is with an HVAC hygiene and performance assessment.
An HVAC assessment determines the impact of the system on indoor air quality. As these systems work 24/7 they get dirty and performance decreases. A visual inspection of the system looks at the cleanliness of the evaporator coil and ductwork. It spots potential problems using samples collected from the air handling unit. An environmental lab analyzes the samples to limit infections. As Dr. Rajiv Sahay, FIAS, CIAQP, director of the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory explains, “SARS CoV-2, a causal factor of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinically transfers from infected individuals to non-infected. Optimization of the surrounding environment may prevent subsequent transfer of the virus. Chances of viral transmission increase significantly due to exposure of contaminated air, surface, and/or water/liquid. Therefore, alongside therapeutic management, environmental management of SARS CoV-2 plays an important role in reducing the risk of SARS CoV-2 spread and can assist in controlling the current COVID-19 pandemic”.
The resulting report also includes important information on airflow and energy efficiency which affects the overall energy costs of the facilities.
Cleaner Air Reduces COVID-19 Exposure
Air cleaning devices, such as the True HEPA Air Purifier and PURE Plasma, reduce COVID-19 exposure.
Localized Air Purifiers
This commercial-grade air purifier uses smart technology and 4-stage HEPA filtration to capture airborne contaminants as small as 0.3 microns. This removes not just viruses, but bacteria, molds, and other allergens as well. It has the added benefit of reducing energy consumption too.
Systemic Air Cleaners
Needlepoint bipolar ionizers release millions of positive and negative ions into the air. These charged atoms travel through the ductwork and form clusters around pathogens like the coronavirus. This triggers cell oxidation which renders the virus ineffective. These clusters then get caught by the filter thereby preventing their circulation. Ionizers reduce COVID-19 exposure but also reduces bacteria, VOCs, and other contaminants. NPBI reduces odors too.
Stop COVID-19 Exposure Today
Masking, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and changing building traffic patterns are all important, but managers need to focus on ventilation and air purification as well. For more information on how Pure Air Control Services helps facilities reduce COVID-19 exposure call us at 1-800-422-7873 or email us here.