By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU
Back in October 2020, we posted that there is reportedly a risk that the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, may be transmitted through the air from an infected person within so-called aerosols—the very tiny particles of saliva, mucus and water that everyone exhales when, for example, talking, singing, coughing and sneezing. However, we also highlighted that disease experts reportedly would like to make a clear distinction between the COVID-19 virus and diseases traditionally considered airborne diseases, such as tuberculosis and the measles: in other words, COVID-19 does not transmit in the same way.
Regardless of the whether or not the COVID-19 virus is eventually labeled an actual airborne transmissible disease, to prevent the spread of the disease experts have reportedly begun to focus more on how to maintain air quality in enclosed spaces, and perhaps a bit less on cleaning contact surfaces.
To that end, the New York Times has now reported that some hotels and cruise ship lines are actively installing various air filtering systems to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading among their guests and workers.
According to the article, some hotels are installing air purification systems that emit "…charged ions intended to neutralize the virus and make particles easier to filter out [and] high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that are said to be over 99 percent effective in capturing tiny virus particles, including the coronavirus."
There are reportedly some concerns with ionization systems, in part, because some may add ozone and other particles to the air which may be unhealthy.
Other HVAC systems reportedly use ultraviolet C lamps which can inactivate the virus, according to the Food and Drug administration (FDA).
The Times notes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that air filters should have at least a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) of 13 or higher to filter the coronavirus.
Notably, the Times explains that some hotels have been thinking small to combat COVID-19 by providing individual rooms with so-called "closed HVAC" systems that circulate only the air from that room; others have been providing rooms with their own portable air purifiers.
Cruise Ships May Have Varying Results Adding Air Filters
The article notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers cruise ships more susceptible to virus spread, in part, because of: the high population density among the guests; close quarters shared by the crew; and ability of the virus to be transmitted by the crew as they transition from one voyage to the next. As an example, the Times explains about a 112-passenger yacht trip that took safety steps such as:
pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing, electrostatic fogging of public areas and UV light sterilization after nightly turndown — before it launched its winter season from Barbados on Nov. 7 and still a passenger got the virus within days of departure, cutting the trip short. Eventually nine infections were diagnosed and the line canceled future 2020 sailings.
The Times adds that several large cruise ship lines have announced they will upgrade their HVAC systems with features such as ionization, HEPA filtration, and MERV 13 filters that can reportedly refresh ship cabin air about every five minutes.