July 30, 2020- Los Angeles, CA – As school districts around the country begin reopening, Stephen Ashkin, president of Green2Sustainable, says that one “missing link” in covid transmission is being overlooked: HVAC systems.
“Good ventilation is crucial to reducing the transmission of the virus, says Ashkin. “Studies have proven [that] people are over 18 times more likely to contract the virus indoors than outdoors.”
Antiquated HVAC systems are often found in older schools and in more impoverished neighborhoods. However, Ashkin says even affluent districts can have individual school buildings with ventilation problems,
“Further, in some schools, portions of buildings may have good ventilation while other sections may not, due to renovations and updates. This means districts need to evaluate each school in the district.”
This may be quite an undertaking. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that “41 percent of [school] districts need to update or replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.”
He adds that the ventilation situation and the potential for covid transmission is made worse due to density.
“The more children under one roof, the greater the chance that [coronavirus] pathogens will collect in HVAC systems and be dispersed throughout the school.”
As to rectifying this situation, in many cases, the best option is to replace older HVAC systems entirely. Another option, found on newer HVAC systems, is to adjust them so that more fresh air is mixed with treated air.
Additionally, advanced air filtering systems have been developed to trap and prevent COVID pathogens from being distributed through HVAC systems. These should also be considered.
Ashkin adds that along with addressing this “missing link” in preventing the spread of the infection, communities should consider other issues as they prepare to reopen their schools.
“This includes whether the virus is increasing or decreasing in the community; the prevalence of multi-generational households, the school’s social distancing strategies; if students and teachers are in ‘pods’ so they stay together; and [the] wearing face coverings.
Further, we must take steps to ensure the health of teachers, school staff, and custodial workers is protected.”