Americans are abandoning their masks. They’re done with physical distancing. And, let’s face it, some people are just never going to get vaccinated.
Yet a lot can still be done to prevent covid infections and curb the pandemic.
A growing coalition of epidemiologists and aerosol scientists say that improved ventilation could be a powerful tool against the coronavirus — if businesses are willing to invest the money.
“The science is airtight,” said Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The evidence is overwhelming.”
Although scientists have known for years that good ventilation can reduce the spread of respiratory diseases such as influenza and measles, the notion of improved ventilation as a front-line weapon in stemming the spread of covid-19 received little attention until March. That’s when the White House launched a voluntary initiative encouraging schools and work sites to assess and improve their ventilation.
The federal American Rescue Plan Act provides $122 billion for ventilation inspections and upgrades in schools, as well as $350 billion to state and local governments for a range of community-level pandemic recovery efforts, including ventilation and filtration. The White House is also encouraging private employers to voluntarily improve their indoor air quality and has provided guidelines on best practices.
The White House initiative comes as many employees are returning to the office after two years of remote work and while the highly contagious BA.2 omicron subvariant gains ground. If broadly embraced, experts say, the attention to indoor air quality will provide gains against covid and beyond, quelling the spread of other diseases and cutting incidents of asthma and allergy attacks.
The pandemic has revealed the dangerous consequences of poor ventilation, as well as the potent …