Air ventilation upgrades important in battle against COVID-19, experts say


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – From gyms to school districts, many are doing air ventilation system upgrades in the Triangle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have seen the upgrade, but I think the thing that was a little less known was how the state standard is on air ventilation inside of a gym to start with,” said Doug Warf, president of O2 Fitness.

Warf said the minimum standard for a fitness facility is already nearly three times the standard for a restaurant.

It’s one of the reasons he thinks gyms aren’t leading to major spreading of the virus.

“I think it’s a big deal what gyms already have installed is air ventilation systems and I think it makes it an easy add-on for what most gyms are doing for sanitation protocols,” said Warf.

Experts say the virus is transmitted when people breathe or cough – their droplets float and build up in the air.

Other people then inhale them.

It’s why masks and social distancing are credited for curbing the spread.

“Those are each important, but when you get people into a space, you have to layer on these other controls,” said Glenn Morrison, PE, professor of environmental science and engineering at UNC.

High-efficiency air filters and ventilators help clear the droplets in the air.

“We have put in so much effort on hygiene, cleaning surfaces and stuff and that’s great, and I think we haven’t put enough effort on ventilation and air purification and we really need to do that, I think especially in the context of K-12 schools,” said Prasad Kasibhatla, professor of environmental chemistry at Duke University.

Air ventilation systems can be expensive – in the six figures.

Experts said along with upgrading air filters, businesses can buy portable air purifiers and cleaners.

“You’re never really getting it down to zero when you doing this, but you are reducing the risk,” said Morrison.

Air ventilation can be different for different building spaces.

Talking to an HVAC engineer or indoor air quality expert can help guide people.

However, experts said following the three Ws is still crucial.

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