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Volume 26, Number 9—September 2020
Letter

COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020

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To the Editor: Lu et al. (1) describe the indoor airborne spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) facilitated by a type of standard, wall-mounted, ductless air conditioner (AC) used in most countries. These units are low-cost in comparison to ducted AC units, which can cost 3 times as much to purchase, install, and operate. Ductless units cool and dehumidify indoor air but have little ability to filter or remove airborne contaminants.

A wall-mounted ductless system blows air directly onto those closest to it, potentially disseminating infectious droplets or aerosols along the airflow. Lu et al. use arrows to point out the airflows emanating from and returning to the AC unit, delineating a possible trajectory of putative airborne droplets. This trajectory coincides with the seating distribution of other persons at the restaurant who later became ill (1). We agree that the AC probably contributed to the upstream and downstream airborne spread of the virus.

The type of AC system required to mitigate airborne transmission is neither affordable nor architecturally feasible for many buildings or regions. To prevent the spread of coronavirus disease in indoor spaces, we need work-around solutions in addition to distancing and fresh air exchange. Viable, low-cost possibilities might include operating AC on low fan settings and installing units near the ceiling, which would channel airflow towards the ceiling instead of directly onto patrons. Other methods might include installing high-efficiency particulate air filters, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (which can disinfect some airborne coronaviruses such as mouse hepatitis virus and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus) (2), or a combination of these methods.

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Francis W. Moses, Ricardo Gonzalez-RothiComments to Author , and Gene Schmidt

Author affiliations: Moses Engineering, Gainesville, Florida, USA (F.W. Moses); Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA (R. Gonzalez-Rothi); Schmidt Consulting Group, Pensacola, Florida, USA (G. Schmidt)

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References

  1. Lu  J, Gu  J, Li  K, Xu  C, Su  W, Lai  Z, et al. COVID-19 outbreak associated with air conditioning in restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26:162831. DOIPubMed
  2. Lu  J, Gu  J, Li  K, Xu  C, Su  W, Lai  Z, et al. COVID-19 outbreak associated with air conditioning in restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26:162831. DOIPubMed
  3. Bedell  K, Buchaklian  AH, Perlman  S. Efficacy of an automated multiple emitter whole-room ultraviolet-C disinfection system against coronaviruses MHV and MERS-CoV. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2016;37:5989. DOIPubMed

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2609.201749

Original Publication Date: June 24, 2020

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Table of Contents – Volume 26, Number 9—September 2020

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Ricardo Gonzalez-Rothi, 12702 NW 112th Ave, Alachua, FL 32615, USA

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Page created: June 15, 2020
Page updated: August 20, 2020
Page reviewed: August 20, 2020
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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