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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 2, 2020 02:35 PM
From: Senator Michele Brooks
To: All Senate members
Subject: Improving HVAC Systems in Long-Term Care Facilities
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on residents and staff in our long-term care facilities, and on their loved ones.  Earlier this year, the state Department of Health reported that 69% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths were citizens who lived in a nursing home or personal care home.  The initial precautions taken in these settings were mostly limited to social distancing, surface cleaning and disinfection, handwashing, and other strategies focused on good hygiene.  However, preliminary studies indicate that aerosol transmission of the virus is possible, with the virus shown to remain viable for multiple hours.  Evidence also suggests that closed environments with minimal ventilation can contribute to higher numbers of secondary infections.

As a result, several professional sources, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) (referenced in the May 6, 2020 updated guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA), have issued recommendations for building operations in an effort to limit and prevent this type of transmission route.  These suggestions include eliminating recirculation, disabling demand-controlled ventilation, increasing outdoor ventilation, improving air filtration, running systems 24 hours a day, using portable air cleaners, and even using ultraviolet light. 

While research continues into the role of recirculated air and aging HVAC systems in COVID-19 transmission in long-term care facilities, we need to be proactive to better protect our loved ones who are living and working in long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences.   Therefore, I will be introducing legislation that will provide $3 million to establish a grant program to support long-term facilities with any HVAC updates they may require. 

I hope you will join me in supporting this legislation.  This is a one-time investment that would be one of the many tools we utilize to combat this highly contagious virus and, ultimately, save lives.  I deeply appreciate your consideration.

Introduced as SB385