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New air purification tech added to safety measures

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Baker County Library District has recently completed the installation of a needlepoint bipolar ionization system in its main branch facility to upgrade indoor air quality and fight the spread of COVID-19.

Thanks to CARES Act grant funding this past year, the library was able to vastly improve the building’s air quality with upgrades to the HVAC system and installation of over a dozen high-powered air purifiers mounted to the wall in busy spaces and at library branches. The ventilation system at the main library is now high-tech with needlepoint bipolar ionization units, new fan motors for restroom vents, high-grade filters, and a sophisticated new master control technology that all work together to improve fresh air flow and stop novel virus particles from re-circulating in a room. In total, the library received about $180,000 of federal CARES Act funds for its various public health measures.

The HVAC ionization units work to safely clean indoor air by destroying volatile organic compounds and pathogens in the air, including COVID-19, bacteria, mold, and other viruses. This system is ozone compliant and can kill 99.4% of the virus within 30 minutes according to the manufacturer. This high-tech HVAC tool has also been installed at medical clinics, government buildings, colleges, airports, and shopping centers across the country. With upgraded HVAC master controls, the system can also greatly reduce outdoor air intake, keeping purified air fresh and clean.
"The safety of our visitors and staff is our paramount priority," says Perry Stokes, Library Director. "We consider this project to be a great step forward in providing a clean, safe, and healthy environment for our community. I applaud our Facilities Specialist Ed Adamson for his outstanding work of coordinating this project."

With the new technology in place, beginning Monday, March 29, Baker County library users will be able to enjoy the library for up to one hour each day, an increase from the current browsing visitation limit of 30 minutes. In making the rule change, the library’s Safety Committee also considered the recent decrease of coronavirus transmission data and Baker County’s return to the Lower Risk level.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 is more easily spread indoors when there is decreased ventilation and airflow. Installing air purification units aligns with the CDC's safety recommendations for buildings, which asserts that improving ventilation alongside other COVID mitigation strategies can help reduce exposure. The units installed act as an added safety barrier to the library’s current COVID safety protocols like social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing.

The tempo of library visits has increased in recent months, with March on track to be a record high since indoor visits resumed in June. Traffic is still around 25% of normal, however, compared to the pre-pandemic average of 9,500 visits per month.

“It’s customary for us to see higher door counts in the first quarter of the year with wintertime reading and Spring Break activities, so this normal growth spike is wonderful to see,” said Stokes. “This year, in addition to many of the Best Books of the prior year getting added to shelves, I think a big draw has been the recent re-opening of some of our public restrooms. If all goes well, we’ll be able to phase in more normalcy soon such as higher occupancy limits and resuming meeting room use.”

The library continues to require masks, sanitized hands, social distancing, and a respectful quiet reading environment inside the building. The safest strategy is still to keep indoor visits efficient and brief, and whenever possible to reserve materials in advance and use drive-up or curbside service.