Biden Administration Launches National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, Providing EPA-Backed Air Filtration Guidance for COVID Prevention in Schools and Public Buildings
The White House has recently announced the launch of the official National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which is made available as a fact sheet on the executive branch’s official website, whitehouse.gov.
In this article, air filtration experts from Camfil break down the Clean Air Buildings Checklist, an EPA resource designed to help managers of public buildings (such as schools and offices) ensure that their air filtration systems are adequate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens.
What Is the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan About?
The National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan is a comprehensive fact sheet explaining the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans across various domains to prevent further health or economic crisis as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
The Preparedness Plan is broken down into the following areas:
- Protecting against and treating COVID-19
- Preparing for new variants
- Preventing economic and educational shutdown
- Continuing to vaccinate the world
While there are many factors covered in the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan due to the vast array of areas of everyday life that the pandemic has affected, the Administration highlights the importance of implementing and improving existing air filtration infrastructure to protect the public against disease. Air filtration and ventilation are addressed in the “Prevent Economic and Educational Shutdown” section, but adequate air filtration is also an important factor in protecting the public against COVID-19 and in preparing for the spread of potential new variants.
How Will the White House Help Improve IAQ to Prevent COVID-19?
As detailed in the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and accompanying releases by the White House, the Administration has detailed several ways that they will advance indoor air quality in public buildings across the country:
- Funding. Congress and the Biden Administration have allocated hundreds of billions of dollars that can be used to fund clean air initiatives in schools and other government-run buildings. The American Rescue Plan has provided $350 billion for state and local governments in addition to $122 billion for schools to enhance infrastructure, including HVAC and air filtration systems. Additional funding will come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- Build awareness. By building awareness around topics related to disease transmission routes and prevention through air filtration, the Administration hopes to spread knowledge and understanding of how air filtration and ventilation can keep us safe from COVID-19 moving forward.
- Encouraging scientific and technological innovation. Working towards the shared goal of reducing indoor transmission rates, the Office of Science and Technology Policy is working alongside the Pandemic Innovation Task Force to identify opportunities for innovation and incentivize scientists and engineers to bridge that gap.
Clean Air in Buildings Checklist Explained — Air Filtration Tips from Experts
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has worked with the White House to create the Clean Air in Buildings Checklist, which is an actionable list of steps that building and facilities managers are encouraged to take in order to protect building tenants and guests.
(To find out more about how COVID-19 spreads through the air, read Camfil’s Viruses and Air Filtration FAQs.)
The checklist contains main steps, broken down into the following sections:
- Create an action plan for clean indoor air in your building
- Optimize fresh air ventilation
- Enhance air filtration and cleaning
- Get your community engaged
While the checklist is an excellent resource for building managers to create an actionable set of steps, our indoor air quality experts from Camfil have some additional tips to share to help you through the process of optimizing your building’s air filtration and ventilation systems.
- Understand indoor air quality (IAQ).
An important aspect of finding the correct air filtration solutions to protect your building occupants is determining your building’s indoor air quality (IAQ). According to the EPA, indoor air quality refers to the “air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.”
Indoor air quality is affected by a variety of pollutants that come from different sources. Respiratory droplets and aerosols that carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus are classified as particulate matter. Other types of particulate matter include pollen, pet dander, dust, and black carbon, which have both long-term and short-term impacts on lung and heart health.
Identifying the pollutants that affect your building’s air quality is a key piece of deciding what air filters will best address your needs.
- Find out how your building’s airflow affects the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to identifying the types and sources of pollution present in your building, it is important to understand your building’s airflow. Airflow is how air moves around the building. What is the rated airflow of the HVAC system; how well does it circulate throughout the building; how and where does it exit the building?
Understanding your building’s airflow can help you identify points that need to be prioritized when it comes to air filtration, as well as ways in which you can improve your building’s ventilation and air circulation.
- Know what air filtration solutions can deliver on their promises.
Because of the increased emphasis placed on the importance of air filtration by government agencies such as the EPA over the past several years, the market is oversaturated with products that make big promises about what they can do. Some claim to be able to kill the virus that causes COVID-19, while others promise HEPA filtration at a lower price than a new microwave.
Actual HEPA air filters should carry a label indicating they’ve been tested at the factory. HEPA filters without evidence of proper testing may not deliver the particle capture efficiency as promised. HVAC air filters are not individually tested but should be labeled with their MERV and MERV-A value to ensure you are getting what you paid for and expected.
Find out more about the COVID-19 air filtration trends that work and the ones that don’t in this article.
- Consider a variety of air filtration options.
Officials have highlighted MERV-13 panel filters that are housed in a building’s HVAC system, but there are plenty of other options if your HVAC system cannot house MERV-13 air filters. An air purifier with HEPA filtration, for example, will provide high-traffic areas such as classrooms, cafeterias, and breakrooms with the highest quality air filtration modern technology has to offer. This can be used to supplement your HVAC system’s filters.
- Work alongside an HVAC and air filtration expert.
As a building or facilities manager, you have dozens of responsibilities to manage, each of which requires specific expertise. Air filtration and ventilation are no different; there are people that dedicate their careers to understanding airflow and indoor air quality. By working with an expert in the air filtration industry, you will have step-by-step guidance all the way through the process of assessing your building’s IAQ, understanding your building’s airflow, and choosing the best air filtration and ventilation options for you.
About Camfil Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 31 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 35+ countries, and about 5,200 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil USA can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.us/
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