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Masks, ventilation and exposure time: A web-based calculator of indoor COVID-19 infection risk

Huang, Jianxiang, Jones, Phillip ORCID: and He, Jingxu 2022. Masks, ventilation and exposure time: A web-based calculator of indoor COVID-19 infection risk. Frontiers in Built Environment 8 , 986923. 10.3389/fbuil.2022.986923

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Two and half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there is quite a lot of confusion over public health guidance necessary in order to reduce disease infection risks, from room air ventilation, the use of air cleaners, and type of mask and whether or not to wear a mask. This paper describes the development of a novel web-based calculator for use by the public to assess COVID-19 infection risks between a source and receiver in a typical room. The aim is to inform the disease infection risk in response to varying exposure times, mask-wearing, and viral variant in circulation. The calculator is based on the state-of-the-art research evidence, i.e., a room air ventilation model, mask infiltration efficiencies, room cleaner efficiencies, the quanta emission rates of various viral variants of COVID-19, and the modified Wells Riley equations. The results show that exposure times are critical in determining transmission risk. Masks are important and can reduce infection risk especially over shorter exposure times and for lower source emission quantum. N95 respirators are by far the most effective, especially for Omicron, and the results indicate that N95 respirators are necessary for the more infectious variants. Increasing fresh air ventilation rates from 2ac/h to 6ac/h can have a considerable impact in reducing transmission risk in a well-mixed space. Going from 6 ac/h to 12ac/h is less effective especially at lower exposure times. Venues can be classified in terms of risk, and appropriate high ventilation rates might be recommended for high-risk, speaking loudly and singing, such as classrooms and theatres. However, for low risk, quiet and speaking softly venues, such as offices and libraries, higher ventilation rates may not be required; instead, mechanical ventilation systems in combination with air cleaners can effectively remove small fraction size aerosol particles. The web-based calculator provides an easy-to-use and valuable tool for use in estimating infection risk.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Web-Based Calculator, Air Ventilation, Indoor Environment, COVID-19, Mask, Viral Variant
Publisher: Frontiers Media
ISSN: 2297-3362
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 3 October 2022
Last Modified: 17 May 2023 16:01

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