IMPT: VENTILATION is Essential and What We Know Now RE:COVID-19

Across the 140 days of this Pandemic Period I’ve tried to be judicious in what I designate as IMPORTANT and pin to the top of the page.

These two recent articles plus a podcast are important reading and listening and I highly recommend you take some time with them as they convey essential information.

The first is from Donald G. McNeil Jr. at the NY Times. He was one of the first U.S. journalists to take the novel coronavirus seriously back in early January 2020.

Here’s his latest summary, filled with many hyperlinks, of where we are right now as a nation:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/29/health/coronavirus-future-america.html

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The second article, which is a scientific-research “long read,” explores something which it vital to subduing the rampant, on-going outbreak in the U.S. – robust ventilation.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-airborne-transmission/614737/

A few key quotes from this article about how we ARE NOT ventilating our public spaces well enough:

Under an aerosol regime, [where the coronavirus is primarily spread through droplets in the air] we would have different rules for the indoors and the outdoors (especially since, in addition to the diluting power of air, sunlight quickly deactivates viruses.)

We would mandate masks indoors regardless of distancing, but not necessarily outdoors.

Marr told me that she wears her mask outdoors only if she’s interacting with people, if she’s in a crowd, or if she cannot maintain distance.

Yet, in the United States, many locales are mandating masks indoors and outdoors under the same rules, forcing even the solitary person walking her dog to mask up.

And there are places, such as Chicago, where beaches are closed because officials fear crowds, but indoor restaurants and gyms remain open with mild restrictions.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-airborne-transmission/614737/

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Consider schools, perhaps the most fraught topic for millions.

Classrooms are places of a lot of talking; children are not going to be perfect at social distancing; and the more people in a room, the more opportunities for aerosols to accumulate if the ventilation is poor.

Most of these ventilation issues are addressable, sometimes by free or inexpensive methods, and sometimes by costly investments in infrastructure that should be a national priority….

Jimenez also wondered why the National Guard hadn’t been deployed to set up tent schools (not sealed, but letting air in like an outdoor wedding canopy) around the country, and why the U.S. hadn’t set up the mass production of HEPA filters for every classroom and essential indoor space.

Instead, one air-quality expert reported, teachers who wanted to buy portable HEPA filters were being told that they weren’t allowed to, because the CDC wasn’t recommending them.

It is still difficult to get Clorox wipes in my supermarket, but I went online to check, and there is no shortage of portable HEPA filters. There is no run on them.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-airborne-transmission/614737/

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And one more key quote….

Marr told me that she “sheepishly” switched her elementary- and middle-school-age children to a private school because she was able to make a case with the school to take “good ventilation” seriously, in addition to wearing masks and social distancing.

Not every school will have such resources, but maybe providing those resources is exactly what we should aspire to for all schools.

If the signatories of the letter to the WHO are correct, then adding ventilation to our mitigation stack is exactly what we should focus on, doing everything necessary ranging from the more expensive upgrades to our air-quality infrastructure to opening the windows that are right within our reach.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/why-arent-we-talking-more-about-airborne-transmission/614737/

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This same theme of the absolute importance of ventilation was covered in an excellent NPR “On Point” episode earlier this week:

https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/07/27/back-to-school-safely

The link above – https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/07/27/back-to-school-safely will take you to the report referenced in the episode. It’s posted in an interactive, easy-to-read format.

One other article on this same theme to check out is: Twenty Questions to Ask Before Sending Your Child Back to School.

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