The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has outlined guidance for office spaces and otherwise as they plan reopening procedures after closings due to the Coronavirus. Step one, create a COVID-19 workplace health and safety plan, outlines the various ways businesses can ready their space before employees return and how they can keep it safe for employees once they're back. These measures include:

  • Physical barriers
  • Adjust furniture to maintain social distancing (6 feet)
  • Take steps to improve the ventilation in the building

Businesses are encouraged to check with their state and local guidelines to stay up-to-date on new information that is learned about the virus and how to prevent it. In recent weeks, we've learned that COVID-19 is primarily spread through the air. This is significant because it means that social distancing and sanitizing surfaces is not enough.

While still beneficial, businesses will have to do more than install transparent shields or physical barriers. Even in a large open office, with an employee 200 feet away from another, the virus can still transmit through the circulation of air. 

The CDC recommends a few solutions to lower the likelihood of transmission:

  • Increasing airflow by using portable high-efficiency particulate air filtration systems
  • Using natural ventilation when possible
  • Using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate the virus

The CDC's recommendation for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation refers to ASHRAE's (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) position on airborne infectious diseases. As stated in their position statement, "ASHRAE will continue to support research that advances the state of knowledge in the specific techniques that control airborne infectious disease transmission through HVAC systems, including ventilation rates, airflow regimes, filtration, and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)."

ASHRAE suggests two ultraviolet germicidal irradiation strategies: installation into air handlers or ventilating ducts and irradiation of the upper air zones of occupied spaces with shielding of the lower occupied spaces. These strategies work to sanitize the air in a space while keeping occupants safe from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. 

Portable UV air sanitation carts work similarly, but are safer and more effective. The addition of fans that pull in and expel air mean that more air is sanitized in less amount of time, and having the lights in a contained unit make them safer to be around. Portable fixtures mean that you can move the equipment from room to room as occupancy levels change, and they are significantly less expensive than making changes to the HVAC system within your building. 

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FURTHER READING:

Does UVC Kill Coronavirus? - The National Academy of Sciences

Germicidal Ultraviolet Frequently Asked Questions - Illuminating Engineering Society

Evaluation of UVC Light-Emitting Device for Disinfection of High Touch Surfaces - International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health