With millions of people adjusting to work-from-home orders and practicing social distancing, scientists are examining what simple changes could be made to home and office environments in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Researchers from UC-Davis and the University of Oregon published their report in the journal mSystems and came up with some recommendations for healthier work spaces in the age of COVID-19.
Two of their suggestions: opening windows for better air circulation and opening blinds or drapes for more natural sunlight.
Although more research is needed to better understand the impact of natural light on the virus indoors, “daylight exists as a free, widely available resource to building occupants with little downside to its use and many documented positive human health benefits,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The paper also urges building operators and office administrators to post signs reminding employees to wash their hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, to provide access to alcohol-based hand sanitizer and to implement new stringent cleaning protocols — especially for areas that are higher risk, such as near sinks and toilets.
The scientists also write that more air entering the building from the outside can dilute any virus particles that are already indoors.
“No filter system is perfect,” the study says. “Recently, it has been found that gaps in the edges of filters in hospitals has been a contributing factor of the failure of filtering systems to eliminate pathogens from the shared air environment.”
They also note that these viruses tend to prefer drier air, so a more humid environment indoors is another way to potentially prevent the virus from spreading or even make it inactive. In addition, all those open-office design plans instituted by tech, media and finance firms over the last decade may not be the best for the current public health crisis.
“Modern buildings are generally designed to promote social mixing — from open plan living areas in homes to open offices where many workers share space. By promoting interaction and chance encounters, these layouts are thought to generate more creativity and teamwork. At the same time, they are probably also really great for spreading viruses around,” a press release accompanything the study states.
As of Monday evening, more than 577,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the US, where the disease has killed 23,078.