Sabrina Maddeaux: When it comes to controlling COVID, it’s ventilation, stupid


To win this long-term battle and ward off future pandemics, Canada will need to take improving its ventilation standards seriously.

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We have long known that improving indoor air quality is essential not only to control COVID-19, but also to prevent the transmission of other viruses. While vaccines and rapid tests are certainly important, they are only part of the puzzle.

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There will always be people who choose to forgo vaccines, and this percentage is likely to increase if booster shots are needed on an ongoing basis. Laziness, skepticism and indifference will eventually set in. Rapid testing, while certainly the trending solution right now, is not a panacea either.

To win this long-term battle and ward off future pandemics, Canada will need to take improving its ventilation standards seriously, especially in high-risk settings.

“It’s an airborne disease. I think it’s clear, ”said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the COVID-19 Ontario Science Advisory Table at a press conference Thursday. It shouldn’t be a remarkable quote, but it is. While the science on this has been clear for at least a year and a half, Canadian health officials and politicians have been unable or unwilling to accept the evidence. Many are still reluctant.

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Contrary to Brown’s statement, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said on Wednesday he was concerned that Omicron was airborne, which he called a “changer. game “. The response from the medical community on Twitter could best be described as a collective glance.

At the federal level, Canada remains an outlier among peer countries for refusing to recognize airborne transmission, let alone educating the public about aerosols or updating public health guidelines and controls to prevent it. type of spread.

Canada is still largely a nation obsessed with sanitation. Once a reasonable precautionary measure, it has become a reflection of Canada’s comprehensive approach to problem solving: cheap and easy trumps expensive and effective. We are not a country that likes to think, talk or do difficult things.

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For the record, the US C enters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the risk of transmission through contact with a contaminated surface is “low,” at less than one in 10,000. However, the amount of The money and effort spent on cleaning up surfaces by governments, businesses and individuals has created a sunk cost error where we collectively refuse to move forward, even though we preach “follow the science” .

We should have used quiet times during the summer and fall to update public guidelines and begin a necessary overhaul of standards and ventilation systems across the country. While this is obviously an ongoing process, urgency should have been given to environments like long-term care homes and schools, followed by high-risk workplaces like factories. meat packaging and warehouses, then social environments like entertainment venues, restaurants and bars, where masks cannot always be worn.

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But better late than never. Now is the time to come to terms with reality and supercharge our ventilation efforts. Governments and public health officials must immediately and publicly recognize that COVID is airborne.

They should coordinate to provide advice and incentives to businesses and building owners to improve ventilation as quickly as possible. Air filtration systems using technologies such as HEPA filters and ultraviolet lamps should be widely used.

There must be a strong signal that air safety standards will become as important as any other health and safety standard that private businesses, public buildings, employers, developers and owners must meet. We have drinking water standards, food safety standards and property maintenance standards; improving ventilation should be no different.

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One of the best ways to encourage private interests to improve ventilation quickly is to make air quality transparency the norm. This means equipping buildings with air quality monitors that anyone entering the premises can read and use to make informed decisions. This is yet another way of putting control back in the hands of individuals rather than relying on broad and authoritarian restrictions.

We will have to learn to live with this virus – and probably, eventually, others. Improving air quality is not optional; this is the key to returning to a “normal” and pandemic-proof Canadian society. The sooner we prioritize it, the better.

National post

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