Recently, one of our accounts had a run-in with three members of their staff contracting Covid-19. The situation played out something like this: An employee came in without symptoms. While working, he aimed a few small portable fans directly at his face. What followed were two other employees contracting Covid-19: incidentally right in the trajectory of the fans’ air current. What he posited was, do fans aid in the transmission of Covid? The answer seems obvious: it’s a droplet-born disease and fans propel air. But fans and forced air heating and cooling are so ubiquitous; it’s not something that really crosses our minds.
According to an article published on the Nursing Center website, “the infection control concern is the potential for a fan to spread aerosolized human pathogens from biofilms and re-suspension of dust that may settle onto the patient or environmental surfaces in the immediate vicinity of the patient.” Box and floor fans are the biggest culprit, but ceiling fans don’t limit the spread of the virus unless they are working completely and properly and are paired with an adequate HVAC system. Forced air and AC window units also potentially play a role in the spread. A recent study conducted by the CDC looks at an outbreak in China. This study looks at a woman in China who attended a restaurant before showing symptoms. The four people sitting behind her in the restaurant started showing symptoms shortly after she did. It is speculated that the air conditioning window unit spread droplets from her speech to the tables behind her.
There are times, if utilized properly; fans can decrease likelyhood of coronavirus cases by increasing ventilation. According to the EPA website, fans can increase airflow from outside and decrease the stagnant air that allows Covid-19 droplets to linger for longer times when placed in front of a window. The fans can face toward the window to blow the inside air out, or vice versa.
If window ventilation is not possible, forced air systems should be replaced with filtered air systems. The installation process for this isn’t immediate, but a portable HEPA unit can be used until the process is completed. Proper heating and cooling is important to keep staff and patrons safe. Keep air well ventilated, but remember that no one is a "fan" of viral droplets being blown onto their face.
--Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial