Preventing COVID-19 Airborne Transmission in Your Facility

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As more businesses are returning employees to the workplace, there is a growing need in creating and verifying a safe and healthy work environment. When many employees left offices last year, there was more emphasis on surface disinfection. In light of recent CDC briefings and scientific findings, there is now a greater understanding of the importance of airborne transmission. 

Why is understanding COVID-19 transmission important? With this knowledge, companies can focus their efforts on strategies to reduce risks of COVID-19 spread. There isn’t just one mode of disease transmission, so this requires property managers to implement a number different controls. There are three main modes of disease transmission for COVID-19 which are most accurately referred to as surface touch, drop spray, and aerosol inhalation

“Surface touch” transmission describes the situation where a handshake or widely-touched door handle is the root cause. “Drop spray” transmission describes the large droplets that are sprayed out of the contagious individual’s mouth and nose when sneezing, coughing, singing, or talking loudly. These large droplets quickly fall out of the air due to gravity, typically within 6 feet. “Aerosol inhalation” (or “airborne”) transmission received mixed public health messages initially, but recent research has given scientists a clearer picture. When an infected individual is talking or simply breathing, they are generating small respiratory droplets called aerosols which can build up in an indoor environment, even traveling beyond 6 feet! One study estimated that 8% of COVID transmission was from surface touch, 35% drop spray, and 57% aerosol inhalation.

So what can a company do to prepare for all these different routes of disease transmission? It is important to come up with a plan utilizing multiple strategies. Establishing hand sanitizing stations and regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces helps mitigate “surface touch” transmission. Social distancing and face coverings can help mitigate “drop spray” transmission.  But what can be done to control the small aerosols causing airborne transmission?

What would you do in a room with someone smoking? Besides getting them to stop or leaving the room, you would probably open some windows and get as much airflow as possible. But what if it was extremely hot or cold outside? You might try filtration to remove the smoke particles from the air. Filtration can be done through the building’s HVAC system or with a portable air cleaner.

Here is the challenge: we all know when we’re in the room with someone smoking. But we don’t know if we are in a room with someone contagious with COVID-19. As companies bring employees back into the workplace, it is crucial for them to evaluate their ventilation and filtration systems to reduce airborne transmission. While the building engineer may provide an initial overview, companies and property managers should monitor their building’s indoor air quality real-time to see how the ventilation and filtration are actually performing. 

At Indoor Science,  we are committed to helping you monitor your indoor air quality, responding when there is a concern, and finding solutions for you to provide a healthy and safe work environment. Indoor Science is now part of Aftermath Environmental Quality Services and can provide nationwide coverage through its 47 offices located throughout the country. Please contact us at 877-695-7054 to discuss how we can partner with you and your organization. 

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ina.12786
  2. https://oeh.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15459624.2020.1784427#.YHX8z-hKiUm

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