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DHHS: Nursing home outbreaks not linked to ventilation systems 

  • Commissioner Lori Shibinette Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services speaks at the twice-weekly COVID-19 update with Dr. Benjamin Chan and Governor Chris Sununu on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 8/27/2020 5:19:53 PM

Ventilation systems are not at fault for outbreaks at several long-term care facilities, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday at a press conference.

Lori Shibinette, the commissioner of the department, announced at the end of July they would conduct a review of the ventilation systems to see if there was a correlation between the type of ventilation system and the way in which the virus spread throughout the facility.

About 81% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been associated with long-term care facilities, one of the highest rates in the country.

The long-term care ventilation project evaluated 28 long-term care facilities in New Hampshire that had outbreaks of the virus. After an extensive evaluation of ventilation characteristics like exchange rate per hour, types of air filters, and how often filters were changed, engineers on the project did not find any factor that contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the facilities.

Public health officials have become increasingly interested in ventilation systems, as mounting evidence suggests COVID-19 can spread as an aerosol rather than just through larger droplets as some researchers previously thought. Aerosols can travel long distances through air currents and linger in the air for hours.

Shibinette said the state is looking into some recommendations from the engineers on the project, such as installing UV lights in duct systems and increasing air exchange, to prevent the spread of the virus through air systems.




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