I’m not sure when the myth started that COVID-19 is only spread through large droplets (like sneezes or coughs). Y’all, it’s just not true. COVID-19 is spread also through the tiny particles expelled when someone sing, shouts, breathes or coughs – known as aerosol transmission. Those REALLY small, microscopic particles can spread much, much farther than the big sneeze droplets that fall to the ground quicker. This post is not meant to convince you of that fact about aerosol transmission (you can see previous posts on that). So, don’t miss the point of this post.
This post is to help people figure out what to do if you now find yourself in an enclosed workspace with other people, students, children. Why is it important to protect yourself there? And, how can you protect yourself?
These points are taken from a great article written by a mechanical engineer. https://heavy.com/news/2020/08/ventilation-air-filtration-coronavirus-covid19-indoors/
𝟏. 𝐖𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤. 𝐀𝐥𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬. 𝐀𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬- This is especially true in enclosed spaces. Masks work (see my Table of Contents on the science). You have to wear a mask EVEN when you do other precautions noted below (open windows, air purifiers, etc). For example, you can’t take your mask off if you open a window.
𝟐. 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐄𝐕𝐄𝐍 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝟔 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐭 𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭. This has to do with air circulation and the tiny particles that can travel further than 6 feet. Wear your mask at the SAME TIME as being 6 feet apart.
𝟑. 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡. I am hearing from a LOT of people who do not feel safe in their own workplaces. The bosses are saying, “As long as we stay 6 feet apart, we are fine” or “You don’t to wear a mask in a meeting as long as we are 3ish feet apart”. If you are outside, yes. If you are inside, no. DO BOTH.
𝟒. 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐢𝐧. Open a window and bring in the outside air to replace stale inside air. Put a box fan in the window blowing out the air too.
𝟓. 𝐋𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐇𝐕𝐀𝐂 𝐬𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐦. The article cites needing at least an air exchange rate of nine times per hour for a 10 foot by 10 foot room with 3 to 4 people in it. In a classroom with 17 students or a conference room with 8 employees, that needs to be more.
𝟔. 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐬. If you are in a room without a window or proper air circulation, consider an air purifier – one with a filter made of tightly woven fibers. The best option is one with a HEPA filter and depends on the size of the room. These are not perfect in protecting against COVID-19 and are not substitute for masks/distancing. But could be another layer of protection.
𝟕. 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧. If you can do your job from home, try to do so. Be bold and ask. Or, try to set up alternate work schedules where you limit the number of people in a workplace at a certain time. Especially in these next few months as we go into flu season. Many of us know it’s not going to get better. Advocate for yourself to do your job from home if you can – being proactive is always better than reactive when it comes to COVID. (I fully understand that many people cannot do their jobs from home. But, there are a lot more of us who can for the next months. Let’s be innovative!)
𝟖. 𝐁𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞! Many people will wholeheartedly agree with these precautions, but will not be in a position to install new HEPA filters or ask everyone in their workplace to wear a mask. My advice is to try and try again. Advocate with the science for better filters or air purifiers for your office. Advocate for alternate work schedules. Get a good mask for yourself and ask others to wear them if you have a meeting. 𝑾𝒆 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒅𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒅𝒍𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒇𝒖𝒍𝒍𝒚. 𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒏𝒆𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒃𝒆 𝒃𝒐𝒍𝒅. 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓!
With the start of schools and colleges, I do not have a good outlook on what’s to come – especially in states with high positivity rates. If you feel unsafe, speak up and do what you can.
Being proactive is always better than reactive when it comes to COVID.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist