After a year and a half of pandemic, and although in certain circumstances; as outdoors, we are now allowed to start dispensing with the mask, we must continue to comply with preventive measures indoors.
Now that we know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted by aerosols, we have focused on air quality and especially on indoor air quality. Aerosols are those microscopic particles that an infected person releases when they breathe, speak, or scream. Before falling, those tiny virus-contaminated droplets floating through the air can remain suspended for some time and are breathed in by other people and can cause infection.
Source: El País
Making a more visual simile, the aerosols behave like tobacco smoke. When a person is smoking and exhales smoke, it remains floating in the environment, unless a current of air carries it away. If the smoke remains, it can be inhaled by other people when they breathe. The difference is that we see the smoke and, above all, we smell it and that is why we know that it is there. We cannot detect aerosols with the naked eye.
Pollution scenarios. When is the virus most likely to be contagious?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. However, we know that indoors are more dangerous, but risks can be minimized by putting into play all available measures to combat aerosol contagion.
In an example published by the newspaper El País, suppose that six people gather in a house, one of them infected. 31% of known outbreaks in Spain occur in this type of social gathering, especially in meetings with family and friends. Regardless of the distance, if four hours passed without masks or ventilation and talking loudly, the other five people would be infected (according to the scientific model explained in the methodology).
In case of using masks, that risk would be reduced to four infections. The masks by themselves do not prevent infections if the exposure is very long.
Infections in meetings, events and locals account for an important part of contagions in the social sphere. Above all, they are the most explosive: "each outbreak in a nightclub supposes an average of 27 infected people, compared to only 6 infections in family gatherings, like the one shown at the beginning" according to the article in El País. What we know as "super-contagion".
A single infected with covid, patient zero, infected 53 people in two and a half hours. Some of the infected were 14 meters behind them, so only aerosols can explain the contagion. As happened in a choir rehearsal in Washington State (USA) in March of last year.
How can we reduce the risk of infection when we return from the holidays?
We know that the risk of infection is reduced below a person infected when the group uses the masks, shortens the duration of the encounter by half and also ventilates. However, with a view to returning to our usual activity in September, what can companies and institutions do in terms of prevention?
In Spain, the Ministry of Industry publishes in the RITE 2021 (Regulation of thermal installations in buildings), the obligation to have a CO2 meter in the coming months, in shops, restaurants, offices and all that place of public attendance.
The installation of a CO2 meter in spaces where people carry out daily activities, be it an office or a school; allows to maintain good air quality thanks to constant monitoring.
It is an inexpensive and simple way in which the user can provide a solution to the control of the accumulation of CO2 in your comercial establishment. By installing a system like TALES180º, our users can constantly monitor the air quality and show it to their customers.
It also allows to promote good ventilation thanks to the alerts of the sensor system itself. Since ventilation and above all, natural ventilation is the most practical, cheap and effective way, by opening doors and windows.
Safety and efficiency in spaces that need air conditioning.
With the increase in temperatures in summer and the electricity bill, it is even more important to renew the indoor air. Opening the windows and doors causes a rise in temperature in the room and consequently, a greater energy expenditure to return the room to the comfortable temperature.
Is it safe to stay inside shopping centers, or at our work, if the air conditioning is on? As we mentioned before, the probability of contagion depends on several factors. However, CO2 meters keep the interiors in check. In case of increased risk, the system will alert to ventilate the necessary time, helping to improve air quality and better maintaining the temperature.
If the enclosure complies with the RITE standards, it will be much more likely to be infected by not wearing a mask or by not respecting safety distances, than by inhaling aerosols moved by the heated air.
Balance, responsibility and efficiency for better compliance with regulations.
Precisely the RITE 2021 regulation establishes a series of rules to achieve that balance between the demand for thermal well-being and hygiene through heating and air conditioning installations and the rational use of energy.
The environmental quality meters will be key in the following months and, decisive in the resilience of companies and institutions, which seek to adapt to a reality in which, health and the economy; they must go hand in hand for a speedy recovery. Therefore, it is not surprising that in some communities in Spain, such as the capital Madrid, La Xunta or the Government of the Balearic Islands, it is already a mandatory measure to guarantee a safe environment.