Official State of Rhode Island website
COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ’s for Rhode Island residents
For immediate assistance with COVID-19 inquiries, please call the COVID-19 Information Line at 401-222-8022, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or email our new inbox at [email protected]. For all other inquiries, please call the Health Information Line at 401-222-5960, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or email [email protected].
Click here for RIDOH's airflow, ventilation, and air filtration guidance. For additional information on ventilation, please visit CDC's "Improving Ventilation in Your Home" page.
The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from one person to another in tiny particles of water and virus called aerosols. We make these aerosols when we breathe, and we make more of them when we talk, yell, or sing. Aerosols are different than larger droplets that spread COVID-19. Larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, three to six feet from the person who makes them. Aerosols can stay floating in the air for hours and can travel long distances. Aerosols have less virus in them than the larger droplets, so you have to inhale more aerosols to get sick. Aerosols can build up if the air inside is not circulated the right way.
Airborne transmission of viruses increases during the winter months, because people spend more time indoors and it is usually too cold to keep windows open. In winter, the air is drier, especially in heated indoor spaces. Dry air damages the linings of the respiratory tract and can make it easier for virus to get into the respiratory tract. It also means smaller aerosols float in the air for longer periods of time. Therefore, airborne transmission of COVID-19 is expected to be more common during the winter months.
In addition to wearing face masks and staying at least three feet away from other people indoors if you're not fully vaccinated, good air circulation inside buildings, schools, and homes, (ventilation) will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in aerosols.
One way to measure ventilation is to figure out how often the air in a space is completely replaced. This is called Air Changes per Hour (ACH). In a 30-foot by 30-foot classroom that has 25 students in it, the air should be replaced at least every 15 minutes, which equals an ACH of 4. If the air is replaced at least every 10 minutes, there is an ACH of 6, which is better. There is not a standard for ACH, but we do know that a higher ACH lowers the risk of disease spreading through the air.
Ventilation with clean outdoor air is healthier because it removes viruses and other particles, and it also removes gasses, like the carbon dioxide that everyone makes when they breathe out. However, outdoor air is hard to heat or cool, so most ventilation systems use at least some recirculated air.
Ventilation with recirculated air will not reduce the risk of COVID-19 unless that recirculated air goes through a filter that is made to get rid of tiny particles. A filter’s Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) rating describes how well it removes different sized particles in the air. A MERV rating of 13 or higher (MERV 13+) means that the filter gets rid of at least 90% of the particles the size of virus-containing aerosols. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are designed to exceed the highest MERV rating. A HEPA filter gets rid of at least 99.97% of particles that are even smaller than aerosols.
Decreasing the risk of transmission to patients and staff by following best infection control practices is expected. The pandemic has highlighted important practices that ambulatory care facilities should follow. COVID-19 Infection Prevention Guidance for Ambulatory Care Settings.
Places of worship and other locations where people gather pose a particularly high risk for spreading COVID-19. People from many different households gather in one place, and this means you are exposed to other people, including older adults and people with chronic health conditions, who don’t live with you.
Talking and singing increase the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19. When you talk or sing, you breath out more air and the vibrations of the vocal cords during singing greatly increases the amount of aerosols generated. Some large outbreaks have occurred with church choirs, even when the choir members followed social distancing guidelines. Any singing should be limited in volume and duration as much as possible. If singing must occur, people should be 12 feet away from other people, wear masks, and improve indoor air ventilation.
There are ways to measure or calculate if the ventilation methods you are using in a room are working the right way.