NEW YORK—Retailers have made many adjustments because of the coronavirus pandemic, such as requiring employees and customers to wear masks and extra disinfecting and cleaning. However, many haven’t yet considered how to use heating and cooling systems to assist with cleaning the circulating air, CNN Business reports.
As the pandemic continues, the air we breathe in stores is of top priority, as labor experts, engineers and epidemiologists push for retailers to clean up indoor air. In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report saying it was possible for the virus to spread through the air in crowded enclosed spaces.
Some experts recommend putting MERV 13 filters or above in store ventilation systems, such as those used in hospitals and research labs. “The risk of exposure to respiratory pathogens in a closed environment is always higher than an open environment,” said Erin Sorrell, an assistant professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University.
Some retailers have begun filter upgrades. “In light of COVID-19 and the latest CDC guidance, we are also upgrading to hospital-rated filtration systems of MERV 13 or higher wherever technically possible,” said a Lidl spokesperson. Silver Diner, headquartered in Maryland, recently announced it would be scrubbing the air in its restaurants with a customized indoor air filtration system.
The National Retail Federation talked about air filtration during an informational webinar last week. Building environment analysts predict that upgrading filtration in stores and office buildings will have a lasting effect even after the pandemic ends. “We also hope an elevated air standard will be in place even after vaccines and therapeutic solutions are available,” wrote a group of architects and engineers to the WHO. “Indoor and outdoor air pollution has been a persistent problem especially for the most vulnerable populations for decades.”
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.