The coronavirus pandemic has been compared to quite a few major historic events. For example, the US surgeon general recently likened it to a modern “Pearl Harbor” moment. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is a generational challenge, but what’s happening today is quite different than those aforementioned tragedies. There’s no physical entity to focus on. The coronavirus is an invisible threat that works in silence, making it a distinctly different kind of terrifying.
We all have a hidden enemy on our hands, capable of secretly infiltrating our homes. It’s no exaggeration to say that the entire situation is incredibly frustrating, and a bit humbling. We’re so used to having control over virtually every aspect of our lives.
Researchers have two suggestions for maintaining a Coronavirus-free home
On a positive note, researchers from the University of California, Davis have two suggestions for maintaining a coronavirus-free home. Open up the windows for better air circulation and open up the blinds to let the sunshine in. While you’re keeping the windows open this Summer, researchers also suggest keeping your home a bit more humid than usual.
These recommendations don’t just apply to homes either, any building can benefit from both approaches. Not many stores are open right now, but grocery stores and pharmacies should be following these protocols. Moreover, while it’s hard to imagine at the moment, office buildings will re-open eventually. It’s in all employees’ best interests to open up the windows and blinds when that day comes.
The exact effect of indoor sunlight on the coronavirus is still up for debate, but prior research on influenza has shown UV rays can significantly reduce viral aerosols’ half-lives.
“Daylight exists as a free, widely available resource to building occupants with little downside to its use and many documented positive human health benefits,” the study reads.
The benefits of opening up windows are better documented. Increasing the flow of outside air into a building can weaken and dilute any lingering virus particles already inside. While you may be tempted to just use an air filter instead of opening up a window, the study’s authors caution that even the highest quality HEPA and MERV filters fail to catch ultra-tiny viral particles.
Researchers also recommend keeping the temperature inside humid. Viruses generally don’t do well in humid environments and find it more difficult to travel through the air. This should work in all of our favors as temperatures heat up this Spring and the relative humidity between inside and outside increases. Humidity is also known to interfere with the lipids surrounding and protecting coronaviruses.
So, it may be worth it to turn the air conditioning down a few notches this summer.
These recommendations, of course, should be applied in conjunction with the suggestions you’re already hearing over and over again; wipe down doorknobs & often touched surfaces, and diligently wash your hands.
Beyond these guidelines, the study also examined building layouts in general with the coronavirus in mind. One conclusion of particular interest is just how dangerous modern office layouts are in terms of spreading viruses and disease. Popular “open” offices, filled with long coworking desks and collaborative spaces, are great for building team cohesion or encouraging creativity in the marketing department but they’re about as dangerous as it gets during a pandemic.
One can only wonder if offices, stores, and even homes will be designed a bit differently once this is all over.
The full study can be found here, published in mSystems.