Air Conditioners Might Spread Coronavirus


Federal officials are exploring the upcoming summer season and the possible spread of the coronavirus. Experts argume that humidity, temperatures, and direct sunshine won't have a direct impact on the virality of COVID-19. A new piece of evidence, however suggests that a more pressing concern might be air conditioners.

A study found that nine people were infected with COVID-19 by sitting near an air-conditioning vent in a restaurant in Wuhan, China. One asymptomatic diner managed to impact diners around their vicinity as infectious droplets were circulated by the air conditioning system. The person in question sat at a table that was located in front of an AC unit. Four people at the table later tested positive for COVID-19, as well as five people at neighboring tables.

John Lednicky, PhD, a microbiology and virology research specialist has identified different kinds of potential air-borne exposures related to COVID-19 by pulling the virus out of the air.

"Normally, many people can produce larger sized droplets, which tend to fall near the person, or medium-sized droplets that can fall a little further, up to six feet away," Lednicky explains, "But there are also very small particles that can stay adrift in the air, causing inhalation exposure to aerosols… That's exactly what happened in this restaurant." The study also shared that "strong airflow from the air conditioner could have propagated droplets" from table to table in the immediate dining space.

But could air conditioning systems pose the same danger in a more intimate setting, like your home? Despite the study's potential implications on social distancing procedures over the summer season, Lednicky says the largest risk continues to be close contact with other people.

"The bottom line is, you know, as long as you're not hosting parties or have a lot of unknowingly sick people coming into your home, air conditioning isn't going to be a problem," Lednicky says. "Especially if you're actively practicing social distancing measures when you need to step out of the house, and otherwise quarantining yourself and your family at home."

Photos by Getty Images


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