Cleaning Indoor Air Reduces COVID — So Why Is No One Talking About It?

The White House is warning of more infections in the fall of 2022, yet is not promoting its own statement about the new approach that’s needed. The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy released this on March 23, 2022:

The WHOSTP’s fantastic statement finally acknowledged that COVID does not spread through droplets that fall to the ground a few feet from an infected person (as we originally thought and that would make distancing effective). What we know now is that COVID spreads through tiny aerosol particles that can hang in the air for hours (making indoor distancing ineffective).

Aerosol transmission means that you can become infected by entering an empty room hours after an infected person was there. Unfortunately, not enough people, including public officials, are aware of this.

The WHOSTP statement is accurate. While it doesn’t fully commit the White House to this ground-breaking approach, cleaning the air is presented as a big part of the solution, which includes:

  • Ventilation by bringing in fresh outdoor air
  • HVAC upgrades to increase air exchanges for schools and buildings
  • HEPA Filtration connected to HVAC building systems
  • Portable HEPA air cleaners for individual rooms
  • Air Disinfection with Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)

The statement mentions that “five air changes an hour reduce transmission risk by 50 percent.” That's a big deal. With a higher rate, the risk can be even lower.

It also stated, “improving indoor air has benefits beyond COVID-19: it will reduce the risk of getting the flu, a common cold, or other diseases spread by air, and lead to better overall health outcomes.”

A really big deal. Also…

“The Biden-Harris Administration identified improved indoor air quality as an important tool to fight the spread of airborne diseases in the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan last September — and the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan prioritized it again earlier this month.

So why isn’t the White House, the media, or any public health officials promoting this? Or even talking about it?

The silence is deafening and gobsmacking.

I’m dismayed that the Biden administration and public health organizations are not all over this game-changing approach.

Here’s the most astonishing part of the WHOSTP statement:

“Now, we all need to work collectively to make our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers aware of what we can do or ask for to make being indoors together safer. Each of us has a set of simple but powerful actions we can use to bring clean air into the rooms we’re in and clean the air already in the room.”

This statement implies that it’s up to each of us as individuals to make our co-workers, family, and friends aware of how to make indoor air safer.

Is it my responsibility to provide clean water to others in a public building?
Is it
my responsibility to remove asbestos from an old building I want to visit?

Of course not.

It’s curious how the WHOSTP statement attempts to keep so much responsibility on individuals.

But now that it’s been officially acknowledged that clean indoor air can reduce COVID spread, the responsibility for cleaning that air is on the owners of indoor spaces — school systems, restaurants, business offices, city offices, and individual homeowners.

The WHOSTP statement advocates for cleaning indoor air, but states, the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Vaccines did protect against COVID-19 when first given in 2021, but most of us were still wearing masks and not gathering in groups or dining indoors. We had not returned to normal activities. It’s therefore difficult to determine how much protection we got from the vaccine as opposed to personal practices of masking and limiting contact with those outside our family. Also at that time, the virus was not yet able to evade the immune system and was less contagious.

I am not an anti-vaxxer. I’ve been jabbed four times, but as of May of 2022, we are seeing that those who are vaccinated and boosted are not protected against infection. Vaccines have likely helped keep many people alive and safer from serious illness, but even that protection is waning.

Clearly, the COVID pandemic is a complicated public health issue.

Unfortunately, the information provided to the public has been vague and inconsistent. Guidance for personal protection is insufficient and confusing.

But We Are Not Powerless — There is Much We Can Do

Not long ago the message we started getting from public health organizations was “use your own judgment.” We see how well that’s worked as new variants are infecting people who have removed their masks and who are gathering with others in small and large spaces.

Out of frustration, in February 2022, I sought information not only from epidemiologists but also from scientists who understood how viruses spread.

I started reading the research of environmental engineers, aerosol engineers, physicists, HVAC experts, and investigative reports from public health journalists.

I was blown away to find out that we aren’t powerless — that there are significant measures we can take to make all indoor spaces safer.

I discovered that although there’s a lot published on the topic it’s scattered about & not easy to assimilate. So I created a Safe Air web page with the resources that I found most helpful & easiest to understand.

The Implementation of Clean Air Technology is Our Best Hope

We clearly can’t control the COVID virus. Our vaccines can’t keep up with it. Our antiviral medications help but only once someone is infected. There will be other medical advances but we must expand our approach.

Realistically Mask-Wearing Isn’t Coming Back

We know that masks work quite well as long as they are high quality and fit tightly. But masks depend on humans to wear them.

The spread of disinformation and the resulting misguided campaigns against mask-wearing, and the masses who are experiencing “pandemic fatigue” don’t want to return to mask-wearing.

Indoor Air is One Thing We Can Control.

If we know that mask-wearing will be difficult to re-implement and we know more about viral transmission — Let’s take individual responsibility out of the equation and develop mitigation solutions that meet the virus where it lives.

If we can’t keep the tiny COVID critters out of people’s noses, let’s do what we can to keep those tiny COVID critters out of the air.

Our City and Town Websites Need More Accurate Information

On May 15, 2022, I visited the websites of three towns — my city and two adjacent towns. Two of the sites included information about how COVID spreads — both reported the disproven droplet theory and recommended 6-foot distancing that was based on that outdated information. The third site had no information about how COVID spreads.

Three towns with misinformation on their websites about COVID transmission.

Step one — provide accurate information to the public about how COVID is transmitted. That includes explaining that:

  • indoor distancing is not effective because particles stay in the air for hours
  • newer variants are far more contagious
  • masks must be the high ly effective KN95 or N95 (or better)

On May 18, 2022, in the first COVID Public Health Briefing in 6 weeks, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, started with a report of vaccine and booster numbers, then said (with halted speech) “We have a pretty high degree of immunity in our population.”

He then immediately contradicted his first statement with,

“Um, but we’re also seeing a lot of infections across the country. We’re at about 100,000 new cases per day and we know that the number of infections is substantially higher than that — it’s hard to know exactly how many. A lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests but that means we’re clearly undercounting infections.”

After watching this briefing I was beside myself.

A few weeks ago Dr. Fauci essentially announced that the pandemic was over (at least that’s what people heard). He quickly walked that back when there was pushback because case numbers are rising rapidly.

Almost everyone has taken off their masks. We’ve watched countless friends get infected while health experts stayed silent.

We were told that we have a pretty high degree of immunity at the same time we were told there are 100,000 new cases per day and that they are not recording the cases from home testing.

Public health officials also informed us about “immune escape,” a significant issue with vaccines. They didn’t say a word about how to protect those who are most vulnerable or how to address the increasing concern of Long Covid.

There was a brief mention of ventilation and filtration by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky, but only as an “of course” add-on.

Their approach: Vax > Boost > Antivirals >New Medical Treatments.

I don’t understand why there’s still so little guidance, why the nonchalant “those in regions with high levels of COVID are encouraged to wear masks when needed,” and the refusal to promote practices that would make indoor spaces safer.

It’s almost as if they are beholden to the pharmaceutical industry.

Referring to the undercounting due to home testing, on May 21, 2022, Dr. Vin Gupta stated: “We’re only testing and aware of about 10% of COVID cases.”

The only thing I can conclude is that public health officials really have no clue about how COVID is impacting the country at this time.

Some Businesses Have Implemented Clean Air Initiatives

At the start of the pandemic, many businesses did implement air quality initiatives after receiving federal funds. They upgraded or adapted their HVAC systems, added HEPA filters, and started using portable air cleaners in each office or classroom. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to determine exactly what each school, office, or restaurant has implemented and to what degree.

There are, however, school systems that are knocking it out of the park.
Check out the Baltimore City Schools In-Person Air Quality Plan:

And their spreadsheet where you can find out what each school has done:

Boston City Schools also has a comprehensive plan and their indoor air quality live data for each school will blow your mind:

Once in the app on your computer, you’ll see the map with a green circle representing each Boston City Public School:

The air quality can be viewed live for each Boston City Public School

After clicking on a green circle for a specific school you’ll be zoomed in like the view below of Fenway High School.

Fenway High School in Boston

Each of the green dots in the close-up view represents a room in that school.

Choose a room in the school to see the air quality at that moment

When you click on Floor 2, Room 228 of Fenway High School this window pops up and displays the air quality data in real-time. The screenshot below shows the Carbon Dioxide levels for the previous 12 hours in that room.

A click on any of the other squares in the app will show that data— carbon monoxide, relative humidity, two types of particulate pollution, and the temperature fluctuations in the last 12 hours.

Air Monitoring — We Can Measure the Quality of Our Indoor Air

Monitoring CO2 levels in a classroom, airplane, or convention hall tells you the air quality by indicating the quality of the ventilation — how much fresh outdoor air is flowing into a room, which is determined by the CO2 levels.

The CO2 in a room comes from the exhaled breath of those currently in the room or who were recently in the room. High CO2 levels indicate poor ventilation because the air has not been exchanged often enough (if at all).

Good ventilation keeps the CO2 levels low by bringing in fresh outdoor air to replace the stale (and potentially infected) air. Each air exchange cleans the air and reduces the number of COVID aerosol particles (if there were any).

The initial cash outlay for equipment and installation might be significant for larger buildings but there are low-cost options for small businesses and homeowners.

Investment in Clean Air Technology Future-Proofs Us

This is a high-value investment that will pay for itself in many ways. The systems installed (by the appropriate professionals and properly maintained), can significantly reduce (or even eliminate) indoor transmission of COVID. And as the WHOSTP statement pointed out those systems will decrease the spread of colds and flu, and protect the space from any future deadly viruses. By implementing Indoor Air Quality technology we future-proof our living and working spaces.

Update: The excellent article “Indoor Air Pollution in Times of Coronavirus” has a title that not only doesn’t do it justice but is deceiving. The subtitle is more accurate — How aerosol scientists spread the word on the airborne transmission of COVID-19, and what it means for cleaning our indoor air.” It’s the full story of how aerosol scientists and air quality engineers tried to alert public health officials that COVID was airborne and that tactics for mitigation and protecting the public needed to change. They were right but were ignored for almost 2 years, costing lives and much suffering. The article was published May 31, 2022:

Every one of us can contribute to creating Safer Air.

Here’s your one-stop resource for understanding the exciting technology and the initiatives that can improve the quality of indoor air.

There are simple ways to make the air in your home much safer, many of which are easy and inexpensive: https://christinegreen.com/safe-air/

Feel free to share the web page with anyone who might be interested.

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Christine Green

Christine Green

Relational & Procedural Skills Coach. Web Design. Unbridled perspectives on almost everything. https://christinegreen.com/coaching/