White House focusing on air quality to fight COVID-19

April 2, 2022 – The Biden administration is turning its attention to the importance of improving ventilation and filtration in indoor spaces to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and other airborne viruses.

Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was one of four experts featured in a March 29, 2022, White House event focused on indoor air quality. The virtual event, organized by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, was called “Let’s Clear The Air On COVID.”

Allen has argued since early in the pandemic that much of the spread of COVID-19 is due to tiny airborne particles. “We focused on surfaces in the beginning—doorknobs, elevator buttons, groceries,” he said. “That was a big mistake.”

Given the evidence that airborne spread indoors has driven the pandemic, Allen said it’s crucial to focus on cleaning the air in buildings using ventilation, filtration, or germicidal UV light. He noted that many buildings are designed with only “bare minimum standards” for indoor air quality. Improving indoor air would protect people not only from COVID but from other respiratory diseases as well, he said.

In addition, Allen noted that studies have shown that improved air quality in schools and offices has been linked with better health, cognitive function, and performance among students and workers.

Learn more

Read a Washington Post article: White House turns to air quality in latest effort to thwart coronavirus

Read a Boston Globe article: How clean is the air in your school or workplace? Hint: Many places are lacking.