We are currently bombarded with news about COVID-19, and much of it is conflicting. Some say to wipe down all of our groceries, and others say that it’s a waste of time. Some say we should wear masks, others say that they offer little protection. Some say air purifiers can filter out the virus, others say they don’t.

So, what do we do?  How do we best protect our families without driving ourselves crazy?

Let’s start with what we do know

According to most experts, the virus is most commonly passed through an infected person coughing, sneezing, or even breathing on someone else. That means that the best way to keep from getting the virus is to…

Stay home!

Unless you are an essential worker, the best thing we can all do right now is to stay home. Have groceries delivered or limit your shopping trips as much as possible.  If you absolutely must go out, maintain a six-foot distance away from everyone else.

What else can we do to stay healthy?

You’ve heard it a million times by now, but it’s still super important to remember.  Wash your hands!

When should you wash your hands?

Besides the obvious times after using the bathroom, you should remember to wash hands before eating, after eating, before touching your face, after touching your face, after opening packages and definitely after coming home from anywhere else.

The CDC recommends the following steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Cleaning commonly used surfaces is also an important step to keeping your family healthy.  Most experts say that it isn’t necessary to wipe down all your groceries.  But, it is important to keep commonly used surfaces like doorknobs and remote controls clean. While cleaning products are in high demand right now, there are many common household ingredients that will kill the virus.

Wearing a mask if you have to go out may also provide you with some protection.  While initial advice was that only sick people should wear masks, there is increasing evidence that masks can provide some protection for all of us. Unfortunately, masks are in short supply and priority should be given to medical workers.

Does that mean that the virus is airborne?

Most doctors believe that the virus is predominately passed through large droplets that you can be exposed to when near an infected person.  However, the coronavirus has been shown to be able to survive in the air for several hours and there is some evidence that, in certain circumstances, it could be passed through the air.

For example, on the cruise ships that carried infected passengers, guests were instructed to remain in their rooms, and yet some became infected anyway.  This may have been because the system set up to control airflow in the ships (known as HVAC: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) circulated contaminated air throughout the boat.

If COVID-19 is airborne, even in a limited capacity, there is a possibility that it can spread through the HVAC systems in apartment or office buildings.  A recent New York Times op-ed by two Harvard professors found that for measles, a disease primarily passed by airborne transmission, increasing ventilation rates and enhancing filtration levels reduced the risk of passing the virus.

What if people in my apartment building have COVID-19?

Unfortunately, the virus is so new that it’s impossible to rule out the possibility of contracting COVID-19 through re-circulated air, especially if your building doesn’t have proper HVAC filtration.

Fortunately, a good quality air purifier may be able to provide more security. According to the Harvard study: “For buildings without mechanical ventilation systems, or if you want to supplement your building’s system in high-risk areas, portable air purifiers can also be effective at controlling airborne particle concentrations. Most quality portable air purifiers use HEPA filters, which capture 99.97 percent of particles.”

But, isn’t the virus too small to be filtered out?

The coronavirus is around 120 nm in diameter, which is extremely small. In fact, it’s about 100 times smaller than the diameter of a hair.

While it is true that many air purifiers are not able to keep your air clean of COVID-19, there are a few that can. Even the CDC recommends that hospitals use HEPA filtration systems when dealing with patients with coronavirus.

Look for purifiers that have a true HEPA filter and hospital-grade air filtration to give your family the best possible protection at home.