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Scientists take fresh look at indoor air

Tuesday, Jul 7, 2020

* I’ve told you before about how some folks are hypothesizing that the south and southwest are being hit so hard because the heat is driving people to the air conditioning at indoor venues. New York Times

The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby.

If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially distant settings. Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients.

Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters. Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors.

The World Health Organization has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor.

But in an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendations. The researchers plan to publish their letter in a scientific journal.

* Meanwhile…

* From Harvard

Drawing on insights from another deadly airborne disease, tuberculosis, a Harvard infectious disease expert suggested Friday that air conditioning use across the southern U.S. may be a factor in spiking COVID-19 cases and that ultraviolet lights long used to sterilize the air of TB bacteria could do the same for SARS-CoV-2.

Edward Nardell, professor of medicine and of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and professor of environmental health and of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that hot summer temperatures can create situations similar to those in winter, when respiratory ailments tend to surge, driving people indoors to breathe — and rebreathe —air that typically is little refreshed from outside. […]

Germicidal lamps, a technology that Nardell said is almost 100 years old, have been proven effective in protecting against tuberculosis infection and are already in use in some settings to fight SARS-CoV-2. Compared with mechanical ventilation and portable room air cleaners, the lights, according to one study, have been shown to be up to 10 times more effective, Nardell said.

* From the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.

Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air. Unconditioned spaces can cause thermal stress to people that may be directly life threatening and that may also lower resistance to infection. In general, disabling of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems is not a recommended measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.

* From late last month

New York malls will need high quality air systems that can filter out the coronavirus before they will be allowed to reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

“Any malls that will open in New York, large malls, we will make it mandatory that they have air filtration systems that can filter out the Covid virus,” Cuomo said at a press briefing.

High efficiency particle air filters, or HEPA filters, have been shown to help reduce the presence of Covid-19 in the air, according to a presentation from Cuomo.

Gov. Pritzker should give this serious consideration.

* In the meantime, wear a mask, particularly when you’re indoors to protect everyone else. Unfortunately for frontline workers, a national PPE shortage is looming once again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs. […]

In a letter to Congress last week, the health department in DuPage County, Illinois, near Chicago, said all hospitals in the county are reusing protective gear “in ways that were not originally intended and are probably less safe than the optimal use of PPE.”

The DuPage County department is a supplier of last resort that steps in when facilities have less than two weeks’ worth of gear. As of Monday, it had only nine days of some supplies at the current request level. A rise in new infections could make the supply go much faster.

The American Medical Association wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress calling for a coordinated national strategy to buy and allocate gear.

This is a national defense issue. We need a national response.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anotheretiree - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 11:53 am:

    I felt this was airborne from the very beginning. The Diamond Princes cruise passengers were locked in their cabins and continued to get sick. The first super spreader in New Rochelle New York, everyone around him got sick including the neighbor who drove him to the hospital. The New Jersey wedding and Washington state choir outbreak’s were clearly airborne. Masks are the answer. So why aren’t we making N95’s for everyone ?? That’s the one way we can stop this.

  2. - LoganListener - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:00 pm:

    Absolutely pathetic that we’re this many months into the pandemic and the federal government has still done NOTHING to ensure adequate supplies of PPE for healthcare workers and the public.

    So many months of quarantine, completely squandered.

  3. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:02 pm:

    Aerosolized viruses are able to stay airborne for long periods…as a worst case scenario…unfortunately.

    America seems increasingly desperate for true and stable leadership…if I state the painfully obvious truth.

  4. - Siualum - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:04 pm:

    The national response: covid-19 is 99% harmless.

  5. - Rich Hill - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:07 pm:

    ==This is a national defense issue. We need a national response.==

    Worth repeating in every post, every column.

  6. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:08 pm:

    The research about air-conditioning vs open-air recreation makes Mayor Lightfoot’s decision to keep Chicago’s beaches closed during a heatwave look even more suspect.

    – MrJM

  7. - Arock - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:08 pm:

    I don’t know if we need to go to the extreme of N95 for all but do think that now that mask are recommended that manufacturers need to meet some guidelines and meet some testing requirements to insure that what they sale are truly effective and maybe a rating on how effective they are in filtration when worn properly. And that is a key too be worn properly.

  8. - dbk - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    ==This is a national defense issue. We need a national response.==

    Yep. But what we need is not what we’ll get. It’s a national disgrace and simultaneously a national tragedy.

  9. - Groundhog Day - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:26 pm:

    I have also thought it acted like an airborne agent for months. It is baffling why the WHO and CDC do not get on board with the ever-growing evidence. Anyway, this explains why the countries that used masks universally from the beginning avoided lockdowns and high rates of infection. It is tragic what is happening, in the most technical definition of tragedy.

  10. - Anotheretiree - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    My only doomsday prepping was N95 masks.Only time I can say Bill Gates and I were both good predictors. Shared with family members. Switched to the three layer cloth/with filter pocket since moisture destroys N95’s (not hot weather friendly).The first batch of cloth masks arrived in 45 days. The 2nd took two weeks. The Chinese have geared up production. Not sure what we are doing….

  11. - Keyrock - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 1:13 pm:

    We could still use more information about air conditioning and forced air heating in apartment buildings, and also about the use of elevators. The CDC was said to be preparing guidelines for elevators, but nothing has been released.

  12. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    National Defense issue, national response needed, need a new national leader.

  13. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    Illinois could lead the Nation…by starting over with a more strict approach…Governor Pritzker should give this serious consideration…today.

  14. - Chambanalyst - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 3:22 pm:

    Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) has a great twitter thread where he cites the South Korean government’s effective strategy of purchasing excess N95 mask manufacturing capacity from producers, and nationalizing the production of N95 masks for its citizens. They were distributed across the country to pharmacies for under $1.50. Profit limited to pennies per mask. Here, N95 masks are being sold by a middleman for $3-5 per mask IF purchased in large quantities. And that’s just the price for hospitals.

  15. - illinifan - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 3:26 pm:

    There needs to be an effort to establish manufacturing for PPE items in Illinois. Use some of the funds for SBA to help retool Illinois manufacturers who can meet the demand locally.

  16. - pete4illinois - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 7:54 pm:

    We can save thousands of lives and the US Postal Service at the same time with a national preparedness program called “Masks in Every Mailbox.”

    Google: “Masks in Every Mailbox”

    Be sure to sign the petition.

  17. - pete4illinois - Tuesday, Jul 7, 20 @ 8:03 pm:

    “Masks in Every Mailbox”

  18. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Jul 8, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    Fauci has been talking about aerosolization since early April:

    CDC and WHO are losing credibility. And that’s a bad place to be during a pandemic.

  19. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Jul 8, 20 @ 11:02 am:

    Anthony Fauci
    April 3, 2020

    =But, importantly, they can do it merely by speaking. So, there’s been a recent study that came out that said even the force from your voice of speaking, there is a degree of aerosolization.=

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