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Are local businesses doing all they can to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 13:21:39-04

TULSA, Okla. — As businesses open up, are owners doing everything they can to keep customers and employees safe?

Richard Shaughnessy is the Director of Indoor Air Research for 25 years at the University of Tulsa.

“We are just learning how infectious this virus is, how invasive it is. Anything we can do right now as we continue to learn about this virus to slow down transmission, [this] is certainly necessary at this time,” Shaughnessy said.

He believes business owners can be doing five simple things to slow down the spread of the virus.

Shaughnessy says the important thing to understand is there are two ways of transmitting the virus:

  • Human contact
  • Aerosol transmission

“Very small aerosols can remain in the air for hours and do present a problem. Aerosol transmission can remain in the air for three to four hours and on surfaces, they can remain for days,” Shaughnessy explained.

As far as making sure an establishment has a proper ventilation system in place, Shaughnessy believes many are not meeting the bare minimum.

“If ever there was a time in history, indoor air quality, adequate acceptable is of utmost importance at this point in time,” Shaughnessy said.

Shaughnessy said many businesses don't think about turning the air over inside, getting supplemental filtration, upgrading the filtration and effective air cleaning.

"[With] air cleaning all we’re talking about here is making sure that your filters are in place,” Shaughnessy said.

Also, keeping your heating and air cooling system on at all times while the business in inhabited.

"Remember one thing this holds true for ventilation. You only have fresh air filtering through the mechanical system, only when the system is running,” Shaughnessy explained.

Typically, people run their systems on automatic, and once it meets the temperature it shuts off and there is no ventilation. Many do this to save on energy costs. However, Shaughnessy said the safety costs may be more detrimental.

Shaughnessy suggested shutting the air system down at night and flushing it out in the morning. You will only get filtration when the system is running. Also, make sure the outdoor intakes are open and clean, and free of obstruction.

Air cleaning and proper filtration are going to deal with these aerosol fractions that may carry the virus.

If going to go out to a restaurant he said sitting out on a patio at least six feet away from other patrons is the best location due to the fresh air.

He said another place the virus can live is on floor surfaces as particles shed from people with the illness. People walking on the floor can resuspend these particles the virus can attach to back into the air.

“People do not have to buy gallons of bleach to chlorinate everywhere, which can be extremely hazardous to their health. Don’t use a hand grenade if all you need is a fly swatter,” Shaughnessy said.

Common detergents, soap and water will inactivate this the virus.

"This thing isn't that hard to inactivate and to kill," Shaughnessy states.

Encouraging social distancing is another way business owners can ensure a safer environment for their customers.

“We do have that six-foot social distancing. If fact, I always suggest to people, take an extra step or two, because I think the six-foot is more for practicality," Shaughnessy said.

People can practice social distancing and wear masks. Research shows dispersion can extend as far as 12 feet, explained Shaughnessy. The volume of the aerosol is going to lessen as one creates more space from the person, but the virus still exists in the air.

Businesses can also encourage or require employees and/or customers to wear masks.

Up to 20% to 50% of people who carry the coronavirus have no symptoms.

“The point of wearing masks in public is to inhibit that dispersion if you are carrying the virus. Any protection is good," Shaughnessy said.

Shaughnessy also added cloth masks should be washed after using them, because the virus can remain on the material for up to five to six days.

One thing he's hoping is that the public doesn’t have a false sense of security as businesses are now beginning to open up.

“Now is not the time to let down our guard. There is no overnight cure or fix for this virus, just common sense. The air cleaning and sanitizing cannot be on the customer,” Shaughnessy said. “Let’s accept the virus for what it is and let's take steps to make it safer. Not only to protect their workers but to protect their customers.”

Shaughnessy emphasized implementing these procedures is not a cure, but simply necessary in slowing down the spread of the virus.

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