Ventilation placement could affect COVID-19: Study

The new study showing how the placement of a ventilation system could contribute to spreading COVID-19 comes as schools are preparing to reopen.
4:47 | 07/30/20

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Transcript for Ventilation placement could affect COVID-19: Study
All right, robin, thanks. The big question for millions of households. As the school year draws closer is it safe to return to in-person learning? Dr. Anthony Fauci says we should, quote, try as best as possible and this morning we're taking a look at a new study showing how the placement of a ventilation system could make a big difference in controlling the spread of the virus. Gio Benitez joins us with the latest on that, good morning, gio. Reporter: A fascinating study and as you watch this, keep in mind the researchers admit this is not a perfect science. Every classroom is going to be different but it does give us a real clue about what schools might do to limit the spread. This morning, as more schools across the country push back re-opening or opt for online learning a new simulation showing how the coronavirus could spread in the classroom and what you may be able to do to prevent it. Researchers at the university of Minnesota zeroing in on the placement of ventilation units. Desks and people. Take a look at these two simulated classrooms. In one they place the teacher who is likely to do the most talking directly below the ventilation system. In the other, the ventilation system is in the back of the room, the scenario assuming that the teacher is an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. As the simulation begins, you see the particles move around the classroom. But look closely, the virus spreads significantly less in the classroom where the teacher is directly below the vent. This is the result. The red areas indicate hot Zones where the virus could be collected. The classroom where the teacher and vent were on opposite sides all red. But where the teacher was below the vent, the virus was much more contained. What we found is really the design of ventilation especially the position of ventilation with respect to the individuals, that makes a huge difference. Reporter: But two important caveats, the study assumes the teacher, not a student is the one infected and it also doesn't take into account what happens when you wear a mask. If we think about best practices like mask wearing, social distancing, proper ventilation but also the layout of the classroom with respect to that ventilation, I think we'll have the best chance of reducing transmission. Reporter: And Dr. Anthony Fauci now touting another possible tool to fight the virus, eye protection. If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it. I mean, it's not universally recommended but if you really want to be complete you should probably use it if you can. Reporter: Listen, it may not be possible to move the ventilation system but researchers suggest moving the teacher underneath it. The researchers also say opening windows and in some cases even removing ceiling panels could really help, Amy. That is fascinating, thank you. Let's bring in Dr. Jennifer Ashton with more. Dr. Jen, we saw you talking with Dr. Anthony Fauci who said it was a good idea to wear eye protection. So what kind of eyewear are we talking about and could that be incorporated in the plan to go back to school safely? Well, Amy, he's talking about anything from regular eyeglasses to goggles to a face shield. There is very limited data on this. As he said there is no official recommendation or guideline yet but there was a study published in the lancet on June 1st that suggested in a hospital setting eye protection could possibly lower risk so, again, still learning more about that. All right. Dr. Jen, I want to get your take on a new report in Jama that talks about the re-opening of schools itself isn't the problem. It's bringing down the rate of transmission that's the issue. Exactly and Dr. Fauci and I discussed that yesterday. We're really talking about something that's being referred to as precision public health approach. Meaning that the schools themselves are not the only weak link here. They're part of the chain of transmission, so if in an area there is low circulating viral activity, schools could be fine. In areas where there is very high activity, probably not a good idea. We know you're great at answering our viewer questions and we have one from Madison Hayes who wrote into Facebook, our district is saying in classrooms kids' desks will be separated by six feet but if they're at their desks they won't have to wear masks in small classrooms. Madison asks, is that safe, Dr. Jen? Well, first of all there is no such thing as zero risk. It's age dependent when talking about children and masks but it's really important that people understand there is no magical thing about six feet of distance. We may learn down the road that eight or nine feet is required so this is something that's going to have to be figured out. All right. Dr. Jen Ashton, thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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