Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Healthy Habits: Covid in Schools - Interview

I recently had a chance to interview an airborne infection mitigation expert as thousands of schools deal with the post-holiday Covid fallout. PJ Piper, Founder and CEO of Far UV Technologies,  answered questions about the risk in K-12 schools and what can be done to achieve uninterrupted learning.

There is tech that can be put into place now, reducing transmission rates across K-12 facilities and transportation. Far UVC in particular is a scientifically-proven solution that not only improves public health, but is a critical insurance policy for the education of our kids. 

You can learn more in this interview.

How is the Omicron variant affecting schools?

Omicron and other potential future variants will (continue to) be very challenging for schools.  Cases will inevitably increase, potentially exponentially, and administrators will be scrambling to keep schools open while providing a safe and healthy environment for kids, teachers and bus drivers.  Because it is significantly more infectious and has shown an ability to work around the prospective immunity provided by vaccines or previous infections, it lessens the protection of even our most common preventative measures such as masking or social distancing.  It must be addressed throughout all of the higher risk areas, from cafeterias, gymnasiums, classrooms, bathrooms and buses which can be administratively challenging. 


Why is indoor air quality so vital to K-12 education and the health of students?


For this variant and others that may follow, defensive measures like masks, social distancing, washing hands and vaccines are simply not enough.  Until you reduce the viral load in the air, all occupants will continue to be at risk.  That is why the CDC notes that PPE and Administrative Controls are actually the least effective controls for airborne infectious disease and why eliminating the threat from occupied environments through either fresh air or cleaning the existing air is so critical.


Why isn't it enough just to run HVAC systems?

Residential ventilation has largely been designed to provide 1 Air Change per Hour (ACH) and commercial ventilation typically provides 2-3 ACH.  The CDC and ASHRAE are recommending 6-12 ACH which is what high end ventilation systems in hospitals can achieve.  The additional clean air was originally specified for hospitals given the assumption someone there may have a communicable disease and the additional air could dilute the viral load to a level that a higher percentage of immune systems could handle. That risk now exists everywhere.  Just running your HVAC does not increase the level of air changes and there is little to no evidence of transmission through the ductwork, limiting the prospective efficacy of any ductwork based system.  Either a new HVAC system needs to be installed or the CDC recommends the use of in-room UV or HEPA filters to clean the air.  While most disinfection technologies and/or HVAC strategies can only provide an extra equivalent ACH or two, Far UV has recently been shown to be able to provide hundreds of equivalent ACH or more, approximating being outdoors in many cases.


What new technology is improving indoor air quality and health?

While UV has been known for almost 100 years to be able to provide 24 or more equivalent ACH, recent developments with Far UV systems have been proven they can provide several hundred equivalent ACH or more without any material health risks as this new spectrum cannot penetrate even the most superficial layers of skin that we slough off every day as dandruff.    There is simply nothing else anywhere near as fast and effective.  Harvard Medical School has also proven that UV systems can be less than 1/13th the cost of increased ventilation and 1/3rd the cost of HEPA filters, the only other CDC recommended evidence-based options for clean air. 

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