Effects of ventilation on safe occupancy guidelines for indoor workplaces during COVID‑19 pandemic.
COVID‑19 is transmitted through liquid droplets produced by an infected person either through direct contact or secondary contact with contaminated surfaces. Such droplets are introduced into the environment by an infected person during breathing, speaking, sneezing, and coughing. The production, development, and subsequent spread of aerosols carrying COVID‑19 viruses are directly governed by fluid mechanics, which should thus be used to develop effective social distancing guidelines and other pandemic mitigation strategies. Unfortunately, the present social distancing recommendations are based on basic extrapolations of large droplet dynamics, and do not take into account the spread of lighter droplet clouds influenced by various ambient effects, the size of the enclosed environment, among other factors. The proposed research will employ a combination of experimental, numerical, and analytical fluid mechanics tools to develop more reliable worker distancing guidelines, worker configurations, and occupancy limits for indoor workspaces taking into account the combined effect of aerosol production, induced flows due to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and pathogen accumulation over time. The outcomes of this proposal will have a significant impact on the control of the COVID‑19 pandemic at workplaces nationwide, and will better prepare Canadian industry for inevitable future epidemics and pandemics.