Though some public health experts expected coronavirus transmission to wane in the summer as temperatures rise and the air becomes more humid, cases have actually skyrocketed in some of the hottest and stickiest parts of the country.
Engineers and ventilation experts said this may be in part because residents escape the heat by retreating indoors where heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems could exacerbate airborne transmission with unplanned air currents.
“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,” said William Bahnfleth, chair of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Epidemic Task Force (ASHRAE) and professor at Penn State University.
Even in bars and restaurants where social distancing is observed, air ventilation can carry respiratory droplets or aerosols that contain virus, said Len Horovitz, pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published initial findings of an outbreak linked to the airflow in a Guangzhou, China, restaurant. Over the course of 12 days, nine people who dined at the restaurant Jan. 24 fell ill as a result of another patron with a COVID-19 infection, the authors determined.
EDITOR’S NOTE – But continue to lock yourselves indoors “for protection.” And be sure to wear that mask outside while bicycling, basking in the virus-killing sunshine on a Florida beach, or watching the Pacific sunset in a 20-mph breeze.