The issue of containing the spread of COVID-19 is less of a medical issue and more an engineering issue. In fact, the top three Hierarchy of Controls, as outlined by the University of Nebraska and CDC NIOSH Task Force, are all engineering issues. The CDC states:
“Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective control solutions… Engineering controls are favored over administrative and personal protective equipment (PPE) for controlling existing worker exposures in the workplace because they are designed to remove the hazard at the source, before it comes in contact with the worker. Well-designed engineering controls can be highly effective in protecting workers and will typically be independent of worker interactions to provide this high level of protection. The initial cost of engineering controls can be higher than the cost of administrative controls or PPE, but over the longer term, operating costs are frequently lower, and in some instances, can provide a cost savings in other areas of the process.”
The traditional models of public health should be followed as a starting point to reduce the potential for viral spread. They include:
- Traditional social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and isolating cases and contacts
- Agressive surface cleaning and disinfecting
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 respirators and face shields for high risk workers and others who are at risk due to underlying health conditions
However, by themselves, current traditional public health measures, with an overreliance on fomite elimination, will be ineffective in managing a contagious airborne illness to a degree that will allow military infrastructures to return to pre-pandemic levels of combat readiness until a vaccine is tested, produced and widely distributed. Until then, we must implement a multilayered and redundant model, focused on the shared air we breathe, using technologies like CIMR Scavenger Systems, applied systematically across each infrastructure, and engineered to protect our service members and their families. This model should be applied across each sector of infrastructure in order to leave us better prepared for future man-made and natural airborne threats.
All steps currently available to decrease the number of potential airborne viral particles in the “shared air” of our critical infrastructure sectors should be implemented immediately. Here “Shared Air” is defined as the air that exists in or around gathering spaces such as command and control centers, transportation, medical facilities, training centers, housing, and dining facilities. A multilayered approach is recommended to protecting military personnel and their families from “shared air” that potentially contains infectious viral particles using the NIOSH “Hierarchy of Controls” model of hazard mitigation. The interventions discussed focus first on engineering solutions, then policy guidance, and finally on personal protective equipment. We recommend adoption of all current public health interventions, and add the following:
Engineering Controls to consider for indoor/enclosed “shared air”:
- Increasing air turnover with fresh outdoor air using open windows
- Increasing air turnover with fresh air using HVAC room turnover
- Installing physical barriers between people where they share air
- Providing directional air flow as a virtual barrier between “shared” and “personal” air.
- Surveying/mapping/mitigating air flow hazards in high risk public indoor spaces (bathrooms, elevators, etc.)
- Filtering shared indoor air with virus/bacteria/mold killing through UV or ceramic filtration
- Installing pathogen-scavenging (virus, bacteria and mold) technology that provides a continuous level of protection using low-level Hydrogen Peroxide to target aerosolized or vaporized COVID-19, as well as other pathogens that may be encountered in the future.
- Developing and executing mandatory mask use in populated indoor/enclosed areas
- Decreasing numbers of people in indoor/enclosed areas
- Developing and executing plans to decrease personal traffic through high risk areas
- Developing and executing terminal cleaning of high-risk areas between use, decreasing surface re-aerosolization potential
Personal protective equipment:
- N95 mask and goggles/face shields when available to protect high risk individuals, populations, or critical workers who could become single point failures. (consider virus scavenging tech PPE)
- PPE expanded to general population when more supplies are available, but not at expense of high-risk groups
- Explore new virus scavenging technologies such as CIMR Scavenger Systems that could either be worn or deployed as portable units for workstation use (personal clean air zone)
Understanding this model, implementing it at scale, studying the results, and refining it as a matter of national survival should be organized, prioritized, and funded in the same way that effective vaccine and treatment strategies are supported. Unlike vaccine and treatment strategies, clean air technology has the potential to mitigate risk and impact the current crisis as well as serve as a known line of defense for future airborne threats. CIMR Tech represents the most advanced air treatment technology available today and stands ready to assist in the engineering and implementation of systems designed to combat shared air threats unique to the military.