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Ask the Architect

Keeping the coronavirus outside


Q. The weather is getting warmer, and I’m concerned about the coronavirus getting into my home. We live near a shopping strip where a lot of people come and go. We only use our single- room air conditioners when it’s absolutely necessary. I’m noticing that in warm-weather states, they’re still contracting the virus, so I doubt it will go away just because it’s getting warmer outside. Will my room air conditioners be enough to filter the air, and should I rely on them instead of opening my windows? We like the fresh air and need to save money by not running the units if we don’t have to.

A. Unfortunately, no one knows the answer to your question. We’ve heard many ideas from the medical community, but nothing is certain other than keeping a distance to avoid transmission. I just learned that I now have to stay at least 6 feet away from Bengal tigers as well.

The theory and observation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health is that the coronavirus lives and multiplies in cooler and drier environments, and not as well in warmer, more humid environments. The rate of death has us all concerned for our safety and health. I’m beginning to hear of the deaths of people I either knew or who are related to friends, so it’s becoming more and more alarming as it becomes more personalized.

I’m not sure what’s best in your particular circumstance, because absorbent finishes such as carpet, drapes and clothing require more effort to clean than hard flooring and furniture, for example. It is speculation, however, to think that these materials hold the virus longer than 24 hours, assuming that it is capable of latching onto surfaces, but people keep sending me bulletins about how it can live on hard surfaces, like metal and plastic, for that long.

We can learn from the past, and 100 years ago, when the Spanish influenza struck, the equivalent of the surgeon general told the public, in the middle of winter, to keep their windows open. He believed that getting a breath of fresh air could keep the illness at bay. I can only tell you that it would have gotten pretty cold pretty quickly indoors. That’s the reason why, even for decades afterward, steam-fed radiators were so large and overdesigned — and why people regularly kept the windows open.

Just under 30 million people died worldwide, and everyone knew of someone who was laid out in the parlor of their home, since funeral parlors were overburdened. In 1920, when the pandemic had ended, Ladies Home Journal made the uplifting suggestion that the parlor, a place of bad memories and sadness in the home, be renamed the living room.

Room-unit air conditioners aren’t specifically made to filter viruses, so get some fresh air and keep a safe social distance.

© 2020 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question”  in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper,  architect.