Why humidify correctional facilities?
Even with preventive measures and mitigation strategies in place, correctional facilities face an extraordinary challenge protecting incarcerated people and staff from airborne viruses. Overcrowded facilities, close-contact settings, and poor ventilation create an ideal environment for the spread of viruses like SARS-CoV-2. It has been proven that viruses survive best in low humidity environments, controlling the relative humidity (RH) levels decreases the spread of viruses and improves the overall health of staff and incarcerated people.
Inmates are infected with the coronavirus at a rate more than five times higher than the national overall rate1. Dry air allows infectious particles to survive longer in the air and on surfaces which increases transmission between inmates and staff. With the installment of a humidification system, correctional facilities can reduce the transmission, infectivity, and severity of COVID-19 and other viruses to better protect the inmates, staff and the community at large.
Correctional facilities are navigating seemingly endless challenges – from enforcing “Stay With Unit” plans that prevent inmates from intermingling with others to preemptive releases to ensuring an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is available. Humidification is a critical component of the HVAC system for the protection of staff, inmates, visitors, and the surrounding community.
Challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic
- COVID-19 behaves as an aerosol virus, comparable to SARS, MERS and H1N1, and is spread through breathing, speaking, coughing, and sneezing which causes it to transmit more effectively to those in close quarters.
- COVID-19 has been reported even when adhering to the 6-foot social distancing recommendation which is nearly impossible for inmates and staff to abide by.
- Lack of or limited onsite medical support means that the staff can be quickly overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases making it necessary to transport inmates to medical facilities or another prison to receive medical attention.
- Limited space within correctional facilities creates challenges to properly isolate individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, potentially infecting others.
- Some public health experts predict that, like the flu, the COVID-19 coronavirus will return each winter.
Humidity can reduce the spread of COVID-19
The addition of humidity to an indoor space can render viruses inactive and less infectious quickly, ultimately reducing the spread of viruses.
- Low ambient humidity reduces droplet size which allows for a prolonged airborne period which in turn allows for further travel distance – the low weight due to loss of water prevents the virus from being ‘knocked down’ and then cleaned up with usual surface cleaning/hygiene. Extended Airborne time may be as much as 36 to 72 hours and allows for significant travel of the virus. In addition, low humidity and low ‘droplet weight’ may allow viruses to become airborne again after settling.
Issues caused by low or fluctuating relative humidity
- Illness and Discomfort: Dry indoor air has a negative impact on the overall health of incarcerated people and staff because it allows infections to spread quickly.
- There are real costs associated with health-related issues caused by dry air, including a higher occurrence of infections requiring increased medical attention for incarcerated people and higher absentee rates of staff.
Buyer’s Guide: Humidification for Correctional Facilities
Learn more how issues caused by low or fluctuating humidity levels can negatively affect your staff, inmates, and the surrounding community.
Contact your local DriSteem representative (listed below) for more information.
1. Equal Justice Initiative. 21, August 2020. Covid-19’s Impact on People in Prison. https://eji.org/news/covid-19s-impact-on-people-in-prison/