Washington State deems all indoor spaces as equally unsafe in the pandemic and unequally essential. We’re 10 months into COVID-19 and the science has evolved. It’s time Washington changed its approach.
As a small town commercial building owner, I spent most of the summer preparing for this moment. Fall would see a third wave and it would be worse than the others. With small businesses and nonprofits as tenants, I saw it as my job to increase building safety. I turned to Washington State Public Health guidance but found it lacking. Everything boiled down to masking, distancing, and social isolating.
Washington State doesn’t have any guidance on reducing COVID-19 aerosols indoors*. Employees think they could take off masks when six feet apart indoors. An asymptomatic, distanced, maskless staffer could fill their indoor space with the COVID-19 virus. — And still be in compliance with Washington’s recommendations.
Washington’s advice didn’t reflect the recommendations for risk-reduction of airborne, indoors COVID-19. Respected virologists, ventilation experts, and public health experts recommended a more comprehensive pandemic defense. Yes, mask, distance, and limit social contact — these are foundational, but not enough. Experts around the world say we can reduce risk via ventilation and air filtration. Instead of Washington Public Health, I turned to Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health for guidance on how to reduce COVID-19 risk in my buildings.
Here’s what I learned from experts like Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health:
- Use a layered approach to protections, in addition to masks and distancing
- Consistent use of masks reduces airborne COVID-19 by up to 50%
- Inexpensive, portable HEPA air purifiers can reduce airborne COVID-19 an additional 25%
- Ventilation is key. Install windows or improve ventilation systems. This further reduces risk by 10 to 15%
- Indoor CO2 levels correlate to potential airborne COVID-19 levels. By keeping indoor CO2 levels under 600 parts per million, indoor spaces can drive down risk. How? Use a CO2 monitor and open windows when CO2 levels rise…