• Researchers say air conditioning systems might have played a role in spreading coronavirus
  • Viral droplets may have been blown by restaurant air conditioners to some distance
  • There may be a need to improve ventilation and increase tablespaces in restaurants

In a research letter sent to the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers said their findings show people sitting near a COVID-19 positive person may have gotten the infection themselves. Researchers say the spread of the virus may be due to the air conditioner of the windowless restaurant. As a result, the authors are advising restaurants to improve ventilation and increase the spaces between tables.

The researchers who examined the restaurant outbreak in Guangzhou, however, admitted they were not able to replicate the occurrence in a lab. There are also no other cases to which they can compare their findings.

coronavirus outbreak in windowless restaurantt may have been caused by air conditioning system
coronavirus outbreak in windowless restaurantt may have been caused by air conditioning system dimitrisvetsikas1969 - Pixabay

A New Normal For Restaurants

As hundreds of restaurants around the world look forward to their reopening, health experts say they would need to make some changes to make it safer for their customers. These changes include reducing their capacity, having their employees wear masks, and setting a time limit on how long diners can stay inside.

Viral Droplets

Researchers studied the case of three healthy families who all got infected by coronavirus after eating at neighboring tables in a restaurant with no windows in China early this year. They believe that the air conditioner of the restaurant may have blown the viral droplets of an asymptomatic person farther than such droplets typically travel. Nine other people sitting across the three families got sick later.

For struggling restaurants eager to reopen in the coming weeks or months, depending on when their local governments will lift the restrictions, these findings are evidence of a new normal. They would need to make some adjustments after lockdowns are lifted to ensure they do not become a place where one could get infected, the researchers wrote.

Researchers also listed down what they believe can help in reducing the risk of spreading the virus. Restaurant patrons may no longer stay for as long as they like, and heating or air conditioning may have to stay off. Instead of the twenty tables, for instance, the restaurant should only allow patrons good for 15 or even 10 tables. Researchers said that while this may mean reduced income for the restaurants, it is a good practice for the safety and health of their customers.

New Rules

The National Restaurant Association reported more than three million jobs had been lost since the outbreak reached U.S. soil. The organization represents over 380,000 restaurant locations in the United States. Recently, they asked Congress for a $240 billion federal aid to survive the COVID-19 crisis. In an interview with officials of the organization, they said new rules would have to be put in place when they reopen, although it could vary by state.