While school is still a few weeks away, and some universities – most notably Harvard – have already indicated that classes will remain virtual this fall, many college students are anticipating going back to campus. When they do, one topic that will be top-of-mind is personal health and safety.
Schools, like other types of organizations, are instituting a wide range of protective efforts to minimize infection risk for students, faculty, staff and others—from ramped up cleaning and sanitization methods, to requirements for masks in public spaces, including classrooms.
These precautions are important especially because current knowledge of transmission suggests that it is more likely in enclosed spaces.
Enclosed Spaces: A Breeding Ground for COVID-19 Transmission
In university settings, a few places where potential risk may be heightened quickly come to mind: classrooms, cafeterias, and dorm rooms. These are all enclosed spaces, areas where scientists and health experts believe the risk of contracting the virus is more likely. The WHO suggests “avoid[ing] crowded places, close-contact settings, and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation” (New York Times). Their recommendation seems especially relevant to college campus communities, where many buildings are older, cafeterias are meant to encourage socializing, and dorm rooms are innately close contact settings.
Campus Air Quality Has Long Been a Concern
The idea of learning, studying, and living in clear air environments has been appealing long before COVID-19 emerged. Studies indicate that poor air quality can have implications for both health and productivity. According to a study conducted by the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “breathing better air [leads] to significantly better decision-making performance” (Harvard Business Review). Participants scored higher across nine cognitive function domains when exposed to increased ventilation rates, lower levels of chemicals, and lower carbon dioxide. Stale air has the power to make students less productive.
Personal Air Purifiers
College students and others in campus environments can do much to protect themselves and minimize risk, while also improving their health and productivity. One option students (and their worried parents) may want to consider for the fall semester is the use of a Wynd air purifier. If, as WHO and others suspect, COVID-19 is transmitted via aerosols, HEPA filters can help reduce that risk.
Wynd air purifiers work by removing pollutants from the environment, filtering harmful particles out of the air to help you stay healthy. The Wynd Plus weighs less than a pound, and is about the size of a water bottle. It's highly portable—something students can carry with them from classroom to classroom, to cafeterias and into dorm rooms. It has a medical-grade air filter and the ability to capture 99% of particles, including aerosols. Removing indoor particulates can help to boost students’ immune system health while on campus or in other indoor venues.
Staying Safe on Campus
ABC News reports that: “An ongoing survey of nearly 1,000 colleges in the Chronicle of Higher Education said that 63% of colleges and universities are planning to offer in-person classes, 17% are proposing a hybrid learning model, 8% are planning for online-only classes and the rest are considering a range of scenarios or are still waiting to decide.”
If you, or your children, will be returning to campus this fall, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure your safety and minimize risk to others as well. The CDC has produced a series of fact sheets for young adults (ages 15-21) offering advice on how to stay safe in various environments. This includes:
- Washing hands often—avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoiding close contact with others—maintain a distance of six feet between yourself and others who don’t live in your same household (or dorm room).
- Wearing a cloth face cover when around others.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
- Cleaning and disinfecting areas around you frequently.
- Monitoring your health daily, being alert to symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty about the novel coronavirus and how it spreads. Schools, and other institutions, are continuing to consider new ways to operate with safety precautions in place.
One thing we do know, though—thinking about air purification is important and always has been. The ability to carry a clean air solution from cafeteria to class to dorm room can help students feel safe and stay healthy in these uncertain times.