The risk of spreading the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) through ventilation systems is not well-known at this time. Viral RNA has reportedly been found on return air grilles, in return air ducts, and on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters, but detecting viral RNA alone does not imply that the captured virus was capable of transmitting disease. One research group reported that the use of a new air-sampling method allowed them to find viable viral particles within a COVID-19 patient’s hospital room with good ventilation, filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection (at distances as far as 16 feet from the patient). However, the concentration of viable virus detected was believed to be too low to cause disease transmission. There may be some implications for HVAC systems associated with these findings, but it is too early to conclude that with certainty. While airflows within a particular space may help spread disease among people in that space, there is no evidence to date that viable virus has been transmitted through an HVAC system to result in disease transmission to people in other spaces served by the same system.
Healthcare facilities have ventilation requirements in place to help prevent and control infectious diseases that are associated with healthcare environments. For more information, see the CDC Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities.
Non-healthcare (businesses and schools) building owners and managers should maintain building ventilation systems according to state/local building codes and applicable guidelines. Ensuring appropriate outdoor air and ventilation rates is a practical step building owners and managers can take to ensure good indoor air quality.
Source: CDC Updated Dec. 21, 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/ventilation.html