Can air conditioning be contributing to the spread of COVID-19? An expert says possibly

ATLANTA — Georgia is currently seeing a big jump in COVID-19 cases, along with many other Southern states.

Channel 2 anchor Jorge Estevez spoke with a Harvard researcher who says now that it’s hot outside, air conditioning may be contributing to the spread of the virus.

"I just want to emphasize this is not an indictment of air conditioning. It's an issue of being crowded indoors without ventilation," said Dr. Edward Nardell, Harvard Medical School professor.

Nardell told Estevez that he gave a presentation last week on how air conditioning may be spreading COVID-19 in Southern states — and offered possible solutions.

"There was an example in Wu Han, China, where it suspected infection went from table to table, helped by the air conditioner," Nardell said.


He said using your air conditioning in your home isn't a problem.

"Going into a restaurant or a bar, particularly where things are crowded. And so the combination of being inside and unknown sources, asymptomatic people who may be shedding virus. That's the problem," Nardell said.

M. G. Finn is the director of Georgia Tech's chemical biology center.

He said the air conditioning isn't the issue — it's the people in the building with you who may be carrying the virus.

"Most air conditioning systems will not filter out or kill the virus in any way," Finn said. "In a restaurant, the air conditioning makes it comfortable for you to be in the restaurant. If there are other people there with the virus, then there is an increased chance of exposure."

Both experts recommend wearing a face mask if you enter crowded public spaces like restaurants, bars or clubs.

Nardell said ultraviolet light can be used to treat indoor air without ventilation to reduce the risk of the virus.