Engineering controls and aerosol transmission

Curbing the spread of COVID-19 is a group effort, and further research on how this virus spreads suggests that applying the right engineering controls will be a group effort too.

How does it spread?

Medical researchers are currently investigating the role that aerosols have in spreading the new coronavirus. If the virus spreads through aerosols, then there are two important sources of spread: microscopic aerosol droplets and the larger droplets spread via talking, coughing, or sneezing—onto another person or onto a shared surface.

Pathogen spread through these larger droplets has been established for some time. But aerosol transmission hasn’t been explored deeply until more recent decades. Through these sources, the virus could spread directly from someone else or indirectly through a commonly touched surface or even the air around us.

Smithsonian Magazine notes that, if aerosol transmission proves to be as significant as researchers believe it to be, “in the long term, engineers and architects will need to rethink ventilation and air filtration in the design of everything from schools to cruise ships.” This is especially important since “most buildings are completely unprepared for an airborne respiratory disease because they lack the kind of ventilation and air filtration systems that could minimize spread.”

How can we fight back?

Being attacked by the virus on multiple fronts means we have to fight it on multiple fronts. To do that, medical researchers and health organizations argue for the following:

  • Washing hands frequently

  • Wearing a mask to reduce the number of particles exchanged or expelled into the air (Respirators are the most effective, then surgical masks, then homemade fabric masks.)

  • Installing physical barriers to further reduce the exchange of viral particles, as recommended by the CDC.

  • Redesigning air circulation systems to direct air vertically rather than horizontally so that we aren’t all “breathing each other’s air,” as described in this article from Forbes

On top of the contributions made by medical practitioners, these prevention strategies boil down to the contributions individuals can make by practicing good hygiene and social distancing, and the contributions engineers make by designing—or redesigning—physical safeguards.

Let us help

Are you looking for physical barriers to help make your space as safe as it can be? Contact us to discuss your partition needs and let our engineers develop a custom solution.

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