How to Keep the Coronavirus at Bay Indoors

Excerpt – Unless you are living with an infected person — in which case the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers specific guidelines to follow — protecting yourself at home does not require extraordinary measures, Dr. [Virginia Tech’s Linsey] Marr said. And when you venture elsewhere, wearing a face covering and washing your hands are still the best ways to protect yourself indoors.

Health experts offered several tips for dodging the virus indoors: Open the windows, buy an air filter — and forget the ultraviolet lights. Fear of the risk of transmission indoors has fueled a market for expensive devices that promise to scrub surfaces — and even the air — but most of those products are overkill and may even have unintended harmful consequences.

“Anything that sounds fancy and isn’t tried-and-true — those are all things to avoid,” said Delphine Farmer, an atmospheric chemist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Soap and water work beautifully.”

Managers of larger buildings should encourage those who can to work from home and adopt strategies like adding air filters and disinfecting surfaces. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created an app to determine how many people can safely congregate in a given space and for how long.

But regardless of these precautions, the optimal strategy is simply to wear a mask indoors, said Martin Bazant, a chemical engineer at M.I.T., adding, “That’s a much bigger effect than any of those strategies would provide.”

[..] Unlike portable air filters that are inexpensive and can simply be plugged into an electrical outlet, UV lights need to be carefully engineered by trained individuals in order to disinfect. Installed incorrectly, they can cause skin burns and damage eyesight, said Saskia Popescu, a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

UV lights are regulated mostly for use as pesticides and are not well studied for use around people, she added: “I get really nervous when I see people pushing UV disinfection.”

UV light generally does not penetrate deep into a surface and will not destroy virus that’s buried beneath other microscopic detritus.

[..] “Everybody is inundated right now with the shiny new solutions that are being sold to them,” Dr. [building safety expert at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health Joseph] Allen said. “And the reality is, it’s a time for the basics.”

Full article, Mandavilli A. New York Times, 2020.9.27