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Does A/C protect against the coronavirus? Now, we have some evidence

COVID-19 might spread farther because of air conditioning, painting a problem over the summer

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In this April 24, 2020, photo, furloughed aircraft engineer Chutipong Sodvilai cleans air conditioning units to supplement his income in Bangkok, Thailand. Restrictions on air travel imposed on airlines in Thailand have brought a lot of turbulence into the lives of flight and cabin crews, but they’ve been trained to cope with emergencies.

In this April 24, 2020, photo, furloughed aircraft engineer Chutipong Sodvilai cleans air conditioning units as a way to supplement his income in Bangkok, Thailand. Restrictions on air travel imposed on airlines in Thailand have brought a lot of turbulence into the lives of flight and cabin crews, but they’ve been trained to cope with emergencies.

Associated Press

Most air conditioning doesn’t protect against the spread of coronavirus. Rather, air conditioning might facilitate the spread of COVID-19, USA Today reports.

What’s happening:

  • Cases of COVID-19 have risen fast “in some of the hottest and stickiest parts of the country,” according to USA Today.
  • Engineers and ventilation experts told USA Today this might because residents avoid the heat by heading indoors, which leads them to areas with air conditioning and ventilation systems.
  • Those systems might spread COVID-19 farther than fresh air.
  • Consider bars. Yes, socially distancing and wearing a mask helps. But the air can filter through the room and infect those sitting inside.

What they’re saying:

  • “The main way (air conditioning) can contribute to spreading coronavirus is by creating strong air currents that can move the droplets … and contribute to increase risk,” William Bahnfleth, chair of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Epidemic Task Force (ASHRAE), told USA Today.
  • “Ventilation is the key control point for an airborne virus. Based on multiple studies done by the authors, we believe that optimized ventilation is the way to move forward, removing the virus from the air before people inhale it. We think that’s one of the main ways it’s transmitted,” Dr. Julian Tang, an author of a paper on COVID-19 spread, told USA Today.

WHO recognizes air droplets

  • Last week, the World Health Organization released a new updated brief that someone can receive the coronavirus from airborne transmissions, as I wrote about for Deseret.com.
  • “Airborne transmission of the virus can occur in health care settings where specific medical procedures, called aerosol generating procedures, generate very small droplets called aerosols. Some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission, for example, during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes,” according to the WHO.