Oregon dorm study: Open windows curb COVID spread

Oregon dorm study: Open windows curb COVID spread

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Students heading back to university housing may want to crack open a window following a recent study by the University of Oregon.

University scientists observed 35 COVID positive students quarantined in isolation, every two-to-three hours over a 10 day period. The study tested the students, their dorm surfaces, and the air for traces of the virus. 

“As most universities have, there is a COVID isolation dorm,” said Dr. Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, professor of architecture at the University of Oregon. “We set up a human subject study where we could sample from both the students and their environments. And we could look at the relation between a nose sample and the air in the dorm room.”

Dr. Wymelenberg told KOIN 6 News through the use of a new air sampler AerosolSense, the scientists were able to detect even the slightest of changes in the viral load present in the dorm rooms of the infected students over time.

In addition to tracking a decrease in viral load from nasal, surface and air samples overtime Dr. Wymelenberg told KOIN 6 News the scientist observed the ventilation rates in the dorm rooms showed a correlation to the viral load in their environment.

“We asked the students to tell us if their windows were open,” Dr. Wymelenberg explained. “For all the entrees where they opened windows we saw a decrease in the aerosol viral load by about half.” The observational study also required the researchers to calculate the levels of mechanical ventilation in each dorm.

According to Dr. Wymelenberg ventilation and other mitigation techniques are crucial to understanding our future in a post pandemic world.

“The reason we’re doing this work is because it’s clear we’ve entered an endemic era, which is it seems like COVID is here to stay,” Dr. Wymelenberg stated. “We believe environmental surveillance and mitigation strategies are really important to help safely occupy indoor environments together, balance and prioritize human health, while also balancing energy consumptions.”

The small study, is one of the first to show real-world evidence supporting increased ventilation curbs the amount of virus found in the air.

“Obviously masking is really important, but there’s also environmental mitigation strategies that we can use,” Dr. Wymelenberg said. “Ventilation, filtration and even humidification have all been shown to support cleaner indoor air.”

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