As we head into the hot temperatures in the summer months, Americans will increasingly turn to air conditioning to keep ourselves cool. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, is air conditioning safe, or does it increase the spread of the coronavirus?
An early release research letter in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the CDC, adds some evidence – and confusion – to the debate.
Researchers studied an outbreak of COVID-19 in an air-conditioned restaurant in China in which an asymptomatic diner infected nine other people from three families dining at the same time.
They concluded the direction of flow from the restaurant’s air-conditioning was consistent with viral droplet transmission. They argued restaurants should prevent transmission by increasing the distance between tables and improving indoor ventilation.
Before we get carried away about our home AC, here are some points to consider.
First, even if the restaurant is where those nine people caught the virus, there were 73 other people who dined in the restaurant that day. None developed COVID-19.
If anything, this study shows the value of social distancing. The restaurant’s customers were packed in tightly. Since the largest risk for COVID-19 continues to be close contact with other people, it’s still important to stay six feet away other people.
Plus, maybe we should limit our time in crowded places. The affected people in that Chinese restaurant were there for up to 73 minutes.
Until we get more data proving air conditioning plays a causative role in COVID-19 outbreaks, and as long as you’re not hosting big parties in your home, you should be able to safely run your air conditioner normally.