his expression means different things to different people, including something new, pleasant, or much needed. In this post-COVID world, this popular phrase has taken on new meaning.
We took actual fresh air for granted in the past. This became another victim of 2020 and we now no longer implicitly expect the air around us to be 100% virus-free. This is especially true indoors, as we struggle to live in a world where an unseen enemy surrounds us everywhere except our homes. With the vaccine rollout racing head-to-head against a mutating virus, there remains a significant chance that variants may not respond to the vaccines in the same way and a full public inoculation won’t mean total immunity from this frustrating virus.
Are we ever going to return to the office this year or will we be forced to push through Zoom fatigue for another 12+ months? Let’s pivot from problem to solution.
Clearly, masks are a vital part of a multi-layered approach in dealing with COVID in the office/classroom in 2021, but they aren’t the only step. It is a defensive solution focused on the individual protecting themselves. The popular phrase “everyone for themselves” comes to mind. All masks are not created equal, we’ve all seen the bandanas, poorly fitted paper masks and even good masks not worn correctly. Currently, unlike almost every other safety product, there is no government standard for masks as it relates to COVID.
The other end of the COVID solution scale is a focus on cleaning the air in classrooms and offices. This proactive solution not only improves upon mask efficacy but also provides protection for the typical mask issues - the one that slides below the nose, the annoying co-worker who takes their mask off to cough, or the inevitable coffee sip with the mask down.
In a perfect world, your building owner would upgrade the HVAC to include filtration and leverage strong UV light to kill viruses. Unfortunately, not everyone owns their own building or can afford such expensive upgrades.
Portable air purifiers, which both trap and kill viruses, can be an excellent, value-conscious step. By placing these devices in key areas, employees and students are also re-assured that the surrounding air is being actively purified and the company is working in concert with the mask-wearers to optimize the space for safety. The stress associated with return to work and school can be significant and should not be downplayed by employers – people want to know you are making all efforts to take care of them! It is also worth noting that in addition to COVID these air purifiers trap and kill the viruses associated with the seasonal flu (influenza) as well as other airborne contaminants like mold.
Medical grade devices are available and, because they are not permanently affixed to the building, they can be leased to help defer the cost (like other office equipment). Coming back and seeing a high-quality medical grade air purifier in your office or classroom would truly be a breath of fresh air. Give myself or someone on the Workscape team a shout if you have any questions on what this could look like in your space!