Boston University advised faculty and staff today it's taking a number of steps to reduce the odds of any airborne Covid-19 infecting people who have to spend time in its buildings - including dorms - as the school re-opens.
In a letter to university staffers today, Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations, writes:
There have been several news stories in recent weeks about the possibility that airborne particles of COVID-19 could be spread through air-conditioning and heating (HVAC) systems. While the science behind those theories is incomplete, we understand that concern about the possibility of HVAC spread is very real, and we share that concern. Consequently, in recent weeks, Boston University has taken several steps to mitigate the likelihood that droplets carrying COVID-19 will travel though our heating and cooling systems and hang in the air in indoor spaces. We have installed new filters capable of capturing airborne viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), in the systems that recirculate air in offices, classrooms, and residence halls. We have also expanded the hours that our HVAC systems operate, from 12 to 16 hours a day to around the clock, which brings more and cleaner air into our buildings. Because those actions coincide with the University’s reduced occupancy in all buildings, every space in HVAC-controlled buildings will have significantly more outside air per person than previously, a strategy that health experts recommend to reduce the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus.
Nicksa acknowledges that not all BU buildings have modern HVAC systems, but that the school isn't just letting potentially contaminated air sit in them, either:
In buildings whose airflow depends on opening and closing windows, fans can increase airflow quickly and easily. Those buildings, like all BU buildings, will have reduced populations of people, and the people who are in the buildings will practice social distancing and be regularly tested for COVID-19.
More BU ventilation details.