Can indoor sports centers be allowed to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic based on a certificate of equivalence?
Within a time span of only a few months, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has managed to spread across the world. This virus can spread by close contact, which includes large droplet spray and inhalation of microscopic droplets, and by indirect contact via contaminated objects. While in most countries, supermarkets have remained open, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have ordered many other shops, restaurants, bars, music theaters and indoor sports centers to be closed. As part of COVID-19 (semi)lock-down exit strategies, many government authorities are now (May-June 2020) allowing a gradual re-opening, where sometimes indoor sport centers are last in line to be permitted to re-open. This technical note discusses the challenges in safely re-opening these facilities and the measures already suggested by others to partly tackle these challenges. It also elaborates three potential additional measures and based on these additional measures, it suggests the concept of a certificate of equivalence that could allow indoor sports centers with such a certificate to re-open safely and more rapidly. It also attempts to stimulate increased preparedness of indoor sports centers that should allow them to remain open safely during potential next waves of SARS-CoV-2 as well as future pandemics. It is concluded that fighting situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic and limiting economic damage requires increased collaboration and research by virologists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, aerosol scientists, building physicists, building services engineers and sports scientists.
Ventilation and air cleaning to limit aerosol particle concentrations in a gym during the COVID-19 pandemic
SARS-CoV-2 can spread by close contact through large droplet spray and indirect contact via contaminated objects. There is mounting evidence that it can also be transmitted by inhalation of infected saliva aerosol particles. These particles are generated when breathing, talking, laughing, coughing or sneezing. It can be assumed that aerosol particle concentrations should be kept low in order to minimize the potential risk of airborne virus transmission. This paper presents measurements of aerosol particle concentrations in a gym, where saliva aerosol production is pronounced. 35 test persons performed physical exercise and aerosol particle concentrations, CO2 concentrations, air temperature and relative humidity were obtained in the room of 886 m³. A separate test was used to discriminate between human endogenous and exogenous aerosol particles. Aerosol particle removal by mechanical ventilation and mobile air cleaning units was measured. The gym test showed that ventilation with air-change rate ACH = 2.2 h−1, i.e. 4.5 times the minimum of the Dutch Building Code, was insufficient to stop the significant aerosol concentration rise over 30 min. Air cleaning alone with ACH = 1.39 h−1 had a similar effect as ventilation alone. Simplified mathematical models were engaged to provide further insight into ventilation, air cleaning and deposition. It was shown that combining the above-mentioned ventilation and air cleaning can reduce aerosol particle concentrations with 80 to 90% , depending on aerosol size. This combination of existing ventilation supplemented with air cleaning is energy efficient and can also be applied for other indoor environments.