Pre-COVID-19, the words “pandemic” and “deadly transmissible disease” didn’t affect most of us more than a passing notion. For athletes, coaches, and athletic clubs the focus on indoor air quality in their locker rooms was primarily limited to odor control. Then MRSA hit the scene.
For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (1) has plagued players and continues to do so. But now there is a greater threat in the locker room – viral Coronavirus (2) and thwarting both present considerable challenges.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. This means that the antibiotics that used to kill the bacteria — such as methicillin — no longer work. This makes MRSA infections much more difficult to treat.
MRSA first surfaced in hospitals, where it often caused serious bloodstream infections in people who were sick with other diseases and conditions. Now there are varieties of MRSA that occur in nonhospital settings. These infections typically affect the skin of otherwise healthy individuals (3) — such as athletes from time spent in locker rooms.
MRSA is usually spread through physical contact – not through the air. It is usually spread by direct contact (e.g., skin-to-skin) or contact with a contaminated object. However, it can be spread in the air if the person has MRSA pneumonia and is coughing, though this is uncommon in an athletic setting since someone with pneumonia would be unlikely to be present for athletic activity.
MRSA Preventative Measures
The CDC recommends:
Always keep athletic facilities, such as locker rooms, and shared equipment clean whether or not MRSA infections have occurred among the athletes.
Shared equipment should be cleaned after each use and allowed to dry.
Repair or dispose of equipment and furniture with damaged surfaces that do not allow surfaces to be adequately cleaned.
Clean equipment, such as helmets and protective gear, according to the equipment manufacturers’ instructions to make sure the cleaner will not harm the item.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by Coronavirus SARS-COV-2 that can trigger a mild to severe respiratory infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly. (4)
As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
Over time, hospitals and other healthcare facilities developed stringent hygiene routines that successfully reduce the prevalence of bacterial staph and other transmissible diseases. But Covid-19 has presented new challenges – challenges that professional teams and athletic departments are only now trying to conquer.
COVID-19 Preventative Measures
The battle of keeping athletes healthy is challenging but not impossible. Following all CDC recommendations mentioned above, under MRSA prevention in addition to the Hierarchy of Controls model recommended for COVID-19 prevention. (5)
The first and third control methods are elimination and engineering controls, both of which require action to improve indoor air quality. The first, elimination, requires a 987 AMB HEPA source control unit that would physically eliminate viruses that pollute the air and removing surface bacteria. Engineering controls such as proper HVAC systems and HEPA Air Scrubbers and Room Air Cleaners.
Indoor Air Quality in spa and beauty salons has been a concern since the dawn of their opening. For hair shops, cancer-causing formaldehyde was enemy number one due to the toxic fumes emitted from perms, dyes, and hair straightening treatments. For nail salons, it was the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in lacquers, adhesives, and polish removers that presented the most serious occupational health risk. While those problems still exist, both spas and salons now have another potentially serious health concern: COVID-19.
As part of the US Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long been the protector of the American worker. Volumes of standards and recommendations have been published benefiting laborers across all industries, including those employed at spas and salons. From ventilation recommendations for nail care personnel (1) to tips on avoiding chemical exposure for salon staff (2), OSHA has taken the lead in protecting employee health.
Now, in our country’s seventh month of pandemic-related closures, many local safety guidelines are being lifted and, in many areas, spas and salons are reopening. Is it safe to reopen? How at-risk are workers and the patrons they service?
The World Health Organization, which deemed COVID-19 a global health crisis, (3) explains its path of transmission:
COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These include saliva or respiratory droplets that are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example. People who are in close contact with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets get into their mouth, nose or eyes. People with the virus in their noses and throats may leave infected droplets on objects and surfaces when they sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. Other people may become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths before cleaning their hands.
Spas and salons, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for viruses. These types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces that create an environment ripe for germ-sharing. Every spa table, sink, chair, and surface are possible hot spots for transmission. If even one hairbrush or cabinet knob has a communicable microbe, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that shop or salon in a matter of hours. That’s what makes cleaning and disinfecting so crucial.
But COVID-19 transmission is more common by way of airborne respiratory droplets, meaning that the biggest risk of viral spread comes from sick people, not from objects. An obviously ill worker is duty-bound to stay home. But what about the asymptomatic stylist who talks or clears her throat nearby or who, accidentally coughs near another person? The aerosols from that person can linger in the air and circulate. Which is to say, cleaning the air is as important as cleaning surfaces.
Even before COVID-19 hit the scene, the CDC made recommendations for controlling unhealthy occupational exposures in the form of their Hierarchy of Controls model. (4) This model offers five ways to reduce transmission among workers by adopting into practice the various control methods.
While social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and wiping down surfaces make workplaces safer, the most effective control measure is elimination. It is often the most difficult “control” to implement due to cost and any potentially complicated mechanical structures that exist in a building. Among the list of control measures, the CDC suggests these engineering initiatives as additional preventive measures: (4)
Use ventilated tables or portable ventilation units, if available. Move the ventilation units to make sure they do not blow air from one person to another.
If possible, salon owners and managers should work with facilities (building) management to adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is sent into to client spaces, while maintaining the humidity at 40-60%. If possible, increase filter efficiency of HVAC units to highest level possible.
Consider using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units to remove contaminants and clean the air.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underscores the CDC recommendations by advocating for the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to reduce transmission threat in higher-risk areas (5) (such as waiting areas and spaces where multiple stylists and/or customers are located). What makes using these air cleaners with HEPA filtration a powerful tool against viral transmission is that these products are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out the impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC air filtration can be an effective means to protecting spa and salon workers and their customers.
Our Salon Pure Air line of air filtration and purification products not only removes fumes and odors from the source but with our 987 AMB HEPA Room Air Scrubber also removes up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact Air Impurities Removal Systems Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.
2020 has been a year of significant events in America. Our president was impeached. The stock market crashed. Wildfires ravaged parts of the west coast and murder hornets wreaked havoc on honeybee colonies. Civil rights protests continue alongside legal challenges to the results of our national election. And of course, COVID.
Of these trials, none have been more life-changing than Covid-19. The statistics are staggering:
Infections, Global: 77,557,000+ Deaths 1,707,000+
Infections, U.S.: 18,058,000+ Deaths 320,000+ (as of 12/23/20) (1)
At various locations around the country, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on citizens, businesses, and schools are in place due to the highly transmissible nature of this deadly virus. But some workers are expected to work, even during a pandemic. For example, medical personnel, essential office support, and health and wellness employees must be present while their businesses are open. In many areas, students and teachers need to be on school grounds or they risk loss-of-income or instruction. And patients need treatment.
Researchers know that the novel coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing, staying outdoors, and wearing face coverings are effective in preventing the spread.
Unfortunately, airflow is limited while indoors, and physical distancing is often not possible. And while the virus picks no favorites in whom it afflicts, some occupations are at higher risk than others, simply by the nature of what they do or the buildings they occupy.
Here is an overview of just some of the businesses we have supported during this past year and why they are vulnerable.
Hospitals & Medical Centers
For centuries, hospitals have worn the mantle of medical care for patients. But their mission to safeguard human life has been severely tested during the coronavirus outbreak as medical facilities are also places where pathogens can linger and spread.
The need for additional measures of protection have never been more important.
Patients and healthcare workers alike benefit from existing healthcare practices such as personal protective equipment and environmental control. But for the most aggressive infectious diseases, like Covid-19, additional measures such as portable air cleaners and negative pressure HEPA machines for patient isolation will make the difference between potentially lethal illness and health. (10)
College Housing & Common Areas
The U.S. Department of Education lists more than 4,000 academic institutions of higher learning (2) at which nearly 20 million students attend.
In addition to students, at every one of these schools there are hundreds – in some cases thousands – of workers, many of whom commute from other areas, widening the scope of transmissibility. And an alarming number of them are getting sick. With barely a month back at school, there were more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 reported from campuses across all 50 states. (2a). That was in September. The numbers have more than doubled since that time.
Containing the spread of viruses and other illnesses has always been a challenge on college campuses. Think how colds and flu thrive there – classrooms, residential housing, cafeterias – all of these locations are enclosed spaces that tend to be crowded, often with poor ventilation. Add to that the very nature of college social life – dorm and fraternity parties, clubs and team sporting events, college bars – plus the diminished judgment of many younger people, and germ-sharing becomes communal. Students living in residential housing are particularly vulnerable.
The greatest risk of transmission is through aerosolization such as a cough or a sneeze. But in dental offices, germs can also spread during routine procedures and oral surgeries that generate their own aerosols. (3)
Dental aerosols are defined as the splatters, mists, and droplets created from the use of certain dental instruments. These fine sprays and particles include saliva, blood, plaque, and oral debris and can travel distances up to 20 feet. The use of high-speed equipment such as scalers and drills allow pathogens the opportunity to spread rapidly (3a), particularly during surgeries where oral emissions enter the breathing space of dental workers.
Fitness Centers & Locker Rooms
Pre-Covid, the most common thing athletes, coaches, and sports teams worried about in terms of clean air in their locker rooms was primarily focused on odor control. Then there was MRSA.
For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (4) plagued athletes from high school all the way up to the pros. But now, coronavirus (4a) poses an even greater threat. For athletic departments and professional sports teams across the nation, maintaining good health presents considerable challenges – ones that professional teams and athletic departments are now trying to conquer.
Presently, there are over 51 million Americans 65 and older in the United States in contrast to the over-195 million adults under age 65. And yet, older Americans make up 55% of all adults at-risk for serious complications if infected with Covid-19. As of December 1st, more than 100,000 US deaths from Covid-19 were linked to 28,000 senior care institutions. (5) While only 5% of the country’s cases have occurred in these types of facilities, nursing home residents represent 38% of Covid-19 deaths. Simply put, if you are an adult over the age of 65 and live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, your chance of becoming infected by Covid-19 and then dying from it, are higher than any other group in the country. Why are these populations more at risk?
Nursing homes – like many medical institutions – have long been breeding grounds for communicable diseases. Consider the communal nature of elder-care facilities. There is frequent physical contact between patients and staff, residents often share rooms, and many of them are shuttled back and forth between hospitals and doctor’s offices where germs run rampant. (5a) And while coronavirus is blind to age per se, it feeds on those with weak or compromised health profiles.
Office environments, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for germs. Office employees spend the majority of their waking hours during the week inside, sharing space with others. This creates an atmosphere ripe for germ-sharing. Consider the seasonal flu. As we all know, year after year, every American becomes a potential vector for the infection, every surface, a possible hot spot for transmission. If even one doorknob or computer keyboard has a transmissible bug, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that workspace in a matter of hours.
Common areas like meeting and break rooms, waiting areas, and exit and entryways (6) are examples of places where germ transmission is more likely and where social distancing needs to be enforced.
Poor indoor air quality in schools has been known to hamper student wellness even before Covid. In addition to communicable infections, pollutants such as molds, dusts, and fumes can negatively impact a student’s wellness, ability to concentrate, and classroom performance. (7)
Schools are vulnerable for a variety of reasons (7a). Schools tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces and children, even those who are young adults, are inclined to pack together tightly, with little to no thought given to personal space. Think: cafeterias at lunchtime and indoor spectator events viewed from bleachers. Think: crowded hallways and stairwells in between classes. Lastly, minors are more likely to cough and breathe in direct proximity to others and share food, drinks, and personal items.
Spas & Salons
Indoor Air Quality in spa and beauty salons has been a concern since the dawn of their opening. For hair shops, cancer-causing formaldehyde was enemy number one due to the toxic fumes emitted from perms, dyes, and hair-straightening treatments. (8a) For nail salons, it was the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in lacquers, adhesives, and polish removers that presented the most serious occupational health risk. (8) While those problems still exist, Covid-19 has become the greater concern.
The spread of infection in spas and salons is heightened because these types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces making social distancing difficult. Every spa table, sink, chair, and surface are possible hot spots for transmission. If even one hairbrush or cabinet knob has a communicable microbe, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that shop or salon days before someone shows symptoms.
What To Do
Obviously, cleaning and disinfecting are crucial. But COVID-19 transmission is more common by way of airborne respiratory droplets, meaning that the biggest risk of viral spread comes from sick people, not from objects. Staying at home is the best way to avoid contact. But millions of workers, students, and medical patients need to leave their homes. How can one be sure that they are positioned for wellness rather than illness? The answer is clean air.
CDC recommended control measures for improving indoor air quality indicate that “elimination” is the most effective means of reducing transmission of Covid-19 and advocates the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners as an additional means of reducing viral spread.
Air cleaners with HEPA filtration are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out the impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective means of avoiding the spread of illness.
Our air cleaning and purification products not only remove fumes and odors from the source but when paired with our HEPA filtration systems, also remove up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our clean air specialists.
What this means for businesses regarding indoor air quality
On January 21, 2021, a Presidential Executive Order was signed regarding the policy of ensuring the health and safety of American workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (1)
Before this order was issued, OSHA developed a Covid-19 planning guide (2) to help businesses identify workplace risk levels and determine what measures were appropriate to implement.
The order states that the Federal government should take swift action to reduce Covid-19 transmission risk in the workplace. Section 2 of the order specifies that under the OSHA Act, revised guidelines will be given to employers and that coordination with state governments will be executed so as to ensure adequate protection against Covid-19 for all workers.
Specifically, the EO orders OSHA to:
1. Issue revised guidelines to employers regarding Covid-19 worker safety measures. Note: this is NOT a directive for OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards. 2. Consider whether new – but temporary – mask wearing requirements are needed. 3. Review OSHA enforcement efforts. 4. Launch a national program related to Covid-19 violations creating occupational risk. 5. Coordinate with states that have workplace safety plans to help ensure adequate worker protection. 6. Partner with US Department of Labor’s public affairs office and OSHA regional offices to create and implement a multilingual outreach campaign.
The White House set forth this order not just to underscore the importance of following existing OSHA regulations, but to reduce – if not eliminate – workplace risk of Covid-19 transmission.
What does this mean in terms of indoor air quality? It means that anything that could negatively affect worker health and safety – in the context of this current pandemic – should be addressed and remedied. Cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing isn’t enough if workplace air is unhealthy. A clean and uncontaminated environment is crucial for worker wellness.
The EPA states there are three basic strategies to improving indoor air quality:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes further and states that air purifiers have the potential to further reduce exposure to virus-laden aerosols and serve as a useful supplement to other protective procedures. (4)
Regardless of industry, every profession has its own challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Fortunately, the key to providing a healthy IAQ is the same regardless of the type of business. The solution is employing air purification / filtration methods.
Here are just five examples of businesses and their specific IAQ challenges:
Primary schools, unlike personal residences, commercial buildings, and office structures, tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces. For example, K-12 schools struggle with social distancing in congested areas such as cafeterias and classrooms (5), while colleges face challenges with areas such as student housing and lecture halls. Germ-sharing is communal at many schools. But it doesn’t need to be.
Many dentists operate out of small offices where proper ventilation may be compromised. Unhealthy air could threaten worker health every time a patient opens his mouth – which is done often and without a mask during dental procedures. The aerosols created during patient treatment are emitted into the air and linger unless airflow and ventilation are suitable. (6)
Spas, Salons, Barbershops
These types of businesses are often located in smaller, tighter spaces which can create an environment ripe for transmitting illness. Workers are unable to social distance from their clients, putting them in harm’s way if someone is sick. Air purification and constant air flow help combat viral transmission.
In any healthcare facility, the potential for communicable diseases to enter a worker’s breathing space is an ongoing risk. Even more so at nursing homes, where transmission and death rates are particularly high. While only 7% of the country’s cases have occurred in nursing homes, residents there represent 40% of all US Covid-19 deaths. (7)
Gyms, Health Clubs, Sports Facilities
Indoor places where heavy breathing and sweating regularly occur require extra attention. (8) When people are outside, droplets from exhalations, coughing, and sneezing are dispersed into the air more quickly. But indoors, viral spray can linger, increasing the potential for transmission. What Can Businesses Do to Improve IAQ?
Portable HEPA Filtration
Before new guidelines are issued and officially in place, businesses of all types can safeguard worker health by reducing the threat of viral transmission. In addition to social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting, establishments – wherever space and funding will allow it – can add portable HEPA filtration systems to their virus-combating arsenal.
The reason why air cleaners with HEPA filtration are powerful tools against viral transmission is that they are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. Used exclusively, air cleaning and filtration are not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective way to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates.
Our portable HEPA filter air cleaning systems come in three different models, the filtration and recirculation capabilities ranging in room sizes as small as your typical classroom to multi-use areas up to 1200 sq. ft.
To find out more about our air purifying systems – such as our 987-AMB-HEPA model – contact Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.