A young woman stands at an open windowShare on Pinterest
Experts say open windows can be an effective way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread inside a home. Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images
  • Officials recommend that people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 isolate in their homes for at least 5 days.
  • They also say that they should open windows and make use of air filtration systems to lower the risk of spreading the illness in their household.
  • Experts say these precautions are also a good idea as a standard practice at workplaces.

We’ve come to the point with COVID-19 where a positive test no longer means someone will become seriously ill, especially if they are fully vaccinated.

Which doesn’t mean the disease isn’t serious.

Experts say people who are vaccinated and have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, for example, can go grocery shopping or venture into other public places as long as they wear a mask.

However, what should a person do if they have tested positive and don’t want to spread the illness among members of their household?

The Centers for Disease and Prevention states on its website: “At home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others, or wear a well-fitting mask when they need to be around others. People in isolation should stay in a specific ‘sick room’ or area and use a separate bathroom if available. Everyone who has presumed or confirmed COVID-19 should stay home and isolate from other people for at least 5 full days.”

The agency also says people should wear a mask when around others at home and in public for an additional 5 days.

“People confirmed to have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms of COVID-19 need to isolate regardless of their vaccination status,” the agency says.

Experts say there are also other steps you can take, starting by opening some windows.

“Ventilation and advanced filtration both serve as important tools to reduce the risk of aerosol exposure indoors,” said Stephen Murphy Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

“It makes sense if you think about it and is a large part of why outdoor exposure risk during COVID-19 remains much less than indoor settings,” Murphy told Healthline. “Bottom line: Remove as much of the particulate matter as possible with ventilation and filter out additional aerosols with higher MERV-rated filters in the HVAC system when possible. These MERV 13 or higher filters are tighter woven filters able to more efficiently ‘trap’ the viral aerosols, further mitigating but not removing the risk.”

Murphy said HEPA filters work as well as do portable air purifiers.

“Even those sold off the shelf at large chain stores are quite effective at removing these smaller aerosol particulates,” he noted.

“Placing these devices near the isolated, infected individual‘s closed room or dedicated area in the home would be helpful in reducing the aerosol risk across the rest of the home,” Murphy added. “Using the HEPA filter does not translate to congregating safely together in the home, but it does mitigate the exposure risk if basic at-home isolation protocols are adhered to, such as those found on CDC’s websites.”

Tony Abate, a certified indoor environmentalist and vice president and chief technical officer at AtmosAir Solutions in Fairfield, Connecticut, told Healthline that people should go on the offensive against the novel coronavirus.

“There’s been a lot of attention on HEPA filters and UV lights as a COVID deterrent, and while they can be effective, they remain a passive technology,” Abate said.

Abate said bi-polar ionization HVAC devices are a better option because they are an “active” technology emitting ions into the air.

Jen Lyon is a paramedic who has worked as a health and safety supervisor for television and film productions. She told Healthline she’s been ventilating cast trailers, sets, and large soundstages since the pandemic started.

“If you don’t have an air purifier, then open a window and use two fans,” Lyon said. “One [fan] inside the room pointed toward the window and one in the window pointed outside to pull the air out of the room. The idea is to move the exhaled air from the people in the house outside before someone inhales it.”

“If you only have one fan, open a window and put the person between the fan and window so the exhaled air goes directly out the window,” she added.

The CDC also has a set of guidelines involving indoor ventilation.

Lyon said these safety practices should extend beyond the pandemic.

“We know from wearing masks, increased handwashing, increased ventilation, and increased hand sanitation that we have lessened the incidence such as cold and flu transmission for the past 2 years,” she said. “We should adopt these practices as a norm.”