Can COVID spread through vents?

Can COVID spread through vents?

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Every week, Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to

Dear Deb from QA: I work in a factory that recirculates a lot of cold air. Does that make my workplace more susceptible to the coronavirus?

Exactly how COVID-19 spreads has been one of the most vexing questions during our current crisis. According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet), through respiratory droplets from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking.   

But there’s no real consensus about the virus spreading via particles that have been hanging around in the air for longer periods. While the World Health Organization published a report last month that it can’t be ruled out, the bigger culprit, according to the WHO, is indoor gatherings with large crowds with little hand hygiene or mask usage.

Now comes the fear that the virus could spread in indoor spaces with air conditioning and recirculated air. 

Researchers at the University of Florida found “unambiguous evidence” of live virus circulating through the air — up to 16 feet away from patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Then there’s this from the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases, about COVID-19 aerosol found near air vents of intensive care units in China. Of course, these happened in hospitals with patients infected with the coronavirus, and that’s a different scenario from a large factory with recirculated air. 

Even if your company is willing to reconfigure HVAC units to bring in more fresh air rather than recirculating indoor air (MxD’s building, for example, is now being supplied with double the fresh air), that’s not going to happen overnight. 

In this case, the easiest answer remains the best answer: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Abide by social distancing protocol. 

Until we find out more facts about COVID-19 and air transmission, those three steps are a far more effective way to combat the virus’s spread (and something you can control) than reconfiguring your factory’s heating and cooling system (which is probably something you cannot).

Assuring quality,

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
Where are manufacturing jobs?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.