It’s starting to get cold outside. We know how important it is to be together in person, but how can we safely meet in person when it’s cold outside?

There are two options. With both options, please abide by the guidelines of the State of Massachusetts to include numbers of people being together and wearing masks and social distancing. More details can be found here.

Option 1: Meet outside in the cold

  • Meet outside but keep the space warm with a heater or a fire pit. This could include outdoor patios or under tents or in unheated barns or just out in the back yard.
  • It is next-to-impossible to find outdoor propane heaters these days as most of them have been bought-up by restaurants. Please try to find your own solution that will work well for your space, but if needed, the church has been able to acquire a few propane heaters and is on the lookout for more. If you need to borrow one from the church, please send an email to [email protected]. If you have access to propane heaters that others might borrow or buy from you, please also send an email and let us know.
  • Simply wear warm clothes and gloves and hats.

Option 2: Meet inside

  • This is a less-preferred option but if Option 1 can’t work for you and your circumstances, and you have decided to meet indoors, then again please definitely abide by the State of Massachusetts guidelines about numbers of people being together and about mask wearing and social distancing.

Air Exchanges: beyond wearing a mask and social distancing, maximizing air exchanges is the most important aspect of maintaining a healthy indoor environment. Air exchange is the amount of fresh outside air that is coming into and then being vented out of a space over a period of time per the number of people in the space. All residential and commercial HVAC systems are built with some level of air exchange, however depending on the equipment and the era, the amount of air exchanged per hour may or may not be at a healthy level. And newer systems are not necessarily generating greater air exchange than older systems – actually it’s likely the opposite as newer energy codes have required buildings to have fewer air exchanges in order to conserve energy. So, some practical things you can do:

+ Have fans in your bathrooms and any other exhaust fans turned on during the entire time that people are in your home or building.

+ If possible, have the fan in your HVAC system on all the time while people are in your home – this may require running the heat more intensively than usual in many cases.

+ It may be the case that you will want to allow more outdoor air into your home through open windows or doors. Obviously, this would not be energy efficient, but with the heating system running more continuously while people are inside, it will facilitate greater air exchange.

+ Please note that simply having various windows and doors open in a house or building does not necessarily lead to greater air exchange nor a healthier building. For outdoor air to flow in and indoor air to flow out, there has to be some temperature gradient causing the air to flow or some mechanical means of causing the air to flow.

+ Also, simply having air flow does not guarantee a cleaner space as the direction of the air flow also matters vis-à-vis the location of a hypothetically sick individual. If a sick individual coughs next to where the air is flowing in then that air will carry the virus particles as it flows through the space.

Again, none of these solutions is anywhere near as effective as wearing masks and remaining socially distant.

Filtration or Air Cleaning:

There is a lot of misinformation out there about filtration and air purification. First of all, there is no air purification (other than a laboratory clean room) scenario that will have a greater impact than wearing masks and staying socially distant.

+ MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 appears to be the level of filtration that has health benefits greater than the typical level of filtration but not so high that it requires fully upgraded equipment to handle. And realize that a MERV 13 filter does not mean that viruses will be filtered out of the air, but it does mean some particles that might be carrying some viruses will be filtered out of the air. It’s important to note that for some HVAC systems, there is some risk that a MERV 13 filter could potentially damage the equipment. This depends on the particular equipment you have so please consult with your manufacturer or maintenance technicians before installing higher grade filters in your air handling systems.

+ Air Cleaning / Purification units. There are a variety of portable air purification units out on the market. If they have HEPA filters, then that means they are at least at the MERV 13 level of filtration. There are a variety of products out there like Ionizers and UV lights where the science is still out on whether these will actually mitigate any risk from the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, these air purification units also seem to be sold out everywhere. The church has purchased a few of them and is on the lookout to purchase more. So again, please try to acquire them on your own, but if you need to borrow one from the church, or if you know of how to acquire additional units, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Some of the thinking behind this note is derived from an interview with Dr. Joseph Allen of the Healthy Buildings Project of the Havard Chan School of Public Health where he shared his perspective with a number of local area pastors. View the interview in the video below: