Resources and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 Edition

With the new and more contagious strains out there, we need to start wearing proper masks. Cloth masks are not enough.

I realized many of us (including me 10 days ago) are still living with the outdated (and not so well-informed) guidelines about the pandemic. So I started this new topic for collecting useful resources and updates for our community.

Upgrade your masks, official guidance is catching up:

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Unsure if anyone here will benefit from this, but it’s useful to have a central place that documents the vaccination sites:

There is now a CDC backed website to locate where can one find vaccines:

If you are looking for leftover vaccines nearby:

NYT story about the site:

BTW, there are certain zip codes and neighborhoods where any adults can get vaccinated. A friend got a shot by calling the first one yesterday within hours:

Apparently, the state of Illinois is opening up vaccines on Apr 12:

Unfortunately, Chicago is not doing the same. :frowning:

Chicago is also in:

This seems like a good rule:

If you got a shot at UChicago, most likely you got the Pfizer. Kinda amazing how it is made:

I know a lot of us are confused about what to think of the latest CDC guideline about masks. This podcast provides background on how CDC functions, so it is good to take their guidance with a huge grain of salt. I am planning to wear masks for several more weeks.

For anyone who may need this, shared by Anne Rogers on CS Slack:

Masks are back on campus. Useful link for checking whether a county is in the substantial or high impact transmission level where masks are mandated:

@kameranis we should try to ask these questions of our building. I had asked dept. chair a couple of days ago in person, but all he seemed to know was that an inspection for the ventilation system done earlier (probably last Fall) in the building turned out OK.

Follow up:

Apparently, we do have answers to most of these questions. Quoting Nita’s email to me:

  1. What is the MERV rating of the filters?

I believe it is a MERV 14

  1. Is there demand-controlled ventilation?

I believe the answer is yes.

  1. Has outside air been increased by adjusting air dampers?
  2. What is the air change rate or ACH number?

I think it is between 4-6

And a note from building HVAC maintainers:

These dampers are computer controlled based on building demand (number of people in the building) and outside air temperature and humidity. The absolute minimum is 20%, but looking at the data you can see that it is nonlinear based primarily on these two inputs. Additionally, the fan speed for the four air handlers and therefore the ACH is based on the demand signal (number of people in the building). The number of people in the building has a proxy in the form of carbon dioxide sensors. In plain English, one area of the building has more people in it, therefore more carbon dioxide and therefore a higher demand signal. As a pure guess, I would think that the building ranges from 4 to 6 ACH depending on the demand signal. Again in plain English, the air is completely recovered, mixed with a minimum of 20% fresh air, filtered, tempered and returned once every 15 minutes when the building is unoccupied and once every 10 minutes when it is occupied. This is the same ACH as an inpatient hospital room.

The fresh air is mixed with recirculated air in a plenum, and then the mixed air mass is passed through a MERV14 filter, tempered and pushed throughout the building.

In conclusion, we are in pretty good shape in terms of building ventilation if we are asking these questions.

Another note from them:

Air quality is primarily a function of dilution. Filtration, air exchanges and outside air work together to maximize dilution. Maximizing each individually will generally lead to poor indoor air quality. As an example, the more we increase filtration the greater the pressure drop across the bank and the lower the air exchanges resulting in an overall drop in air quality. Our team has maximized dilution by addressing all three items together.

Another example is how air exchanges are calculated. Air is supplied to and exhausted from the room by fans that create a pressure differential. We measure this in cubic feet per minute. Each room has a volume measured in cubic feet. Dividing the two and converting minutes to hours yields the air exchange rate. Let’s say you have a room that is 200 square feet with a ten-foot ceiling for a total of 2,000 cubic feet. If the system delivers 6 air exchanges per hour (ACH), everyone feels pretty good. If the same system serves the same room except it has a 20-foot ceiling, then it will only yield 3 ACH. The dilution is exactly the same in both rooms and people are equally safe in both rooms, but they feel safer in the 6 ACH room than they do in the 3 ACH room.

In all cases, our mechanically ventilated spaces are meeting healthcare requirements for inpatient rooms (ASHRAE 170). We have had no spread associated with air quality in 18 months of operating the campus.

  • ACH is greater than or equal to 4 throughout campus
  • Filtration is greater than or equal to MERV13 throughout campus
  • We have shut off all demand-controlled ventilation and are running our systems 24/7 - demand-controlled ventilation is an energy efficiency measure to slow down or shut off HVAC systems when it senses low occupancy
  • We are maximizing outside air in conjunction with the other factors mentioned above

This makes me assured that our building’s ventilation is quite excellent.

If you are getting your booster shot soon, here’s some guidance on choosing a strategy based on availability of (or lack thereof) data:

I followed up with Dave since I am under 34, and here’s the tweet thread that followed:

He expanded on the answer later:

And if you are still considering whether you should get a booster, this article by Ashish K. Jha (a physician, is the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health) might help:

and, as I was editing this post to add the link above, FDA just authorized boosters for all adults:

And, here is CDC as well:

If you are still considering whether to get boosted or not, this video may help:

There is a good chance you know someone who has tested positive for COVID as Omicron is just too fast to spread. The testing options can be limited or and their results confounding, this article does a good job explaining what to do when it comes to testing these days:

More official edition:

This thread is now closed as we say goodbye to 2021. New thread for followups and updates:

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