As lockdown begins to ease and the world starts to get back to normality through the current pandemic, it’s no secret that the number of cases has still been quite steady. Isolation has undoubtedly been a huge help when minimising the spread of Coronavirus – and even though it’s summer and many individuals are staying indoors to avoid the heat, some people are starting to question the implications of using air conditioning units with the spread of this highly infectious disease.
Why has the safety of air con been questioned?
These systems bring in outdoor air, cool it down and send it indoors – and many also recirculate the air, too. While we’re still unsure of how the virus is spread, some theorize that if it’s through aerosol particles, these devices could be transporting Covid and keeping the virus circulating. While this does rely on a few uncertain factors, it does seem like these units could be helping to spread these particles to people indoors.
Is it really true?
These systems do use outside (and possibly contaminated) air to help cool down indoor spaces and while many people are theorising that there could be a connection between the two, there are also a few pieces of information that could help debunk the idea.
For one, these systems dilute and remove contaminants through a set of filters, which could mean that they’re helping to prevent the Coronavirus from travelling indoors via this route. It also removes particles when recirculating the air too, meaning that if someone was to spread it themselves while inside, the air could be cleansed before being reused around the building.
One study in hospitals in Oregon did find that genetic material from Covid’s parent disease, SARS-CoV-2, was found within the ventilation system, although there were no further studies to show that this could actually cause infection – although there was proof that there were no confirmed cases within the facility.
Not only that, but there is no evidence that proves that AC actually spreads these particles, and no reports of any COVID-19 infections that were linked back to an air conditioning unit (or one’s use).
What could be the cause of the spike in cases?
If it isn’t the air cooling systems spreading the virus indoors, what could it be? Many experts believe that with more relaxed measures, human behaviour is setting the stage. For example, hot weather encourages people to go inside to escape the heat, and without restrictions on how many people can be indoors at any given time, more individuals are likely to be in one area to breathe the same air that others are exhaling. By shutting doors and windows to keep cool air inside, people are also inadvertently reducing the flow of fresh air, causing potentially infected people to breath out particles and infect others.
While having a flow of fresh air doesn’t stop the chances of someone getting infected, it does lessen the likelihood of inhaling particles that may otherwise be flushed out.