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article imageThree-step strategy to reduce coronavirus infection risk indoors

By Tim Sandle     Aug 4, 2020 in Health
In an attempt to wrestle with the 'new normal', workplaces and schools are attempting to re-open. many will have plans in place to address coronavirus risks. Syracuse University researchers propose a new three-step plan.
The three-step plan to improve indoor air quality comes from Syracuse University professor Jianshun "Jensen" Zhang, and it is designed to help to lower the risks associated with working within a shared workspace and to minimize opportunities for coronavirus to be spread within the indoor environment.
Risks from the SARS-CoV-2 virus are regarded as more acute indoors since airborne transmission of bioaerosols, mainly produced by asymptomatic people during breathing and speaking, is considered by many virologists to be the cause of a significant portion of the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 safety sign
COVID-19 safety sign
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Speaking with Laboratory Manager magazine, Professor Zhang said that some environments were at a greater risk than others, noting: "Classrooms and open-space offices present a special challenge because of their relatively large occupant density, which can lead to a higher chance of person-to-person cross infection in the space via airborne transmission as well as through direct or indirect contacts."
The three steps proposed by Zhang are: source control, ventilation and air cleaning.
Source control
This means: 1) detecting, tracking and isolating infected persons, and 2) preventing transmission from asymptomatic virus carriers. In other words, preventing infected people from entering the work area in the first place. If people are within the environment, then compulsory face masking together with hand sanitizing before entering the indoor space represent essential measures.
Local air exhaust
Whilst presenting a costly solution for many buildings, a local air exhaust within a room can reduce the cross contamination by a factor of between 1.4 to 10.
Ventilation and air cleaning
Ventilation involves supplying a sufficient amount of clean outdoor air and delivering it to the breathing zone, as well as diluting the concentration of any contamination. If fresh outdoor air cannot be supplied, then air should be passed through a HEPA filter.
Good air distribution
Good room air distribution is essential to deliver the fresh air to the breathing zone, avoid the cross-infection in the room. Effective air distribution is achieved by air coming down from the ceiling and being distributed through diffusers, at sufficient speed.
Semi-open partitions
Placing partitions around each office cubicle can help to change the air distribution pattern and reduce the cross contamination between people.
ALSO READ: Effective strategies for killing coronavirus on surfaces
The new strategy for inside environments has been set out in the journal Science and Technology for the Built Environment. The research paper is headed "Integrating IAQ control strategies to reduce the risk of asymptomatic SARS CoV-2 infections in classrooms and open plan offices."
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