Indoor COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies for Fall 2021

You know it’s coming: you’re going to be guilt-tripped into attending a family shindig during a major holiday during the part of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) where being outdoors isn’t a comfortable alternative. And maybe some of your family members are refusing to be vaccinated, while others may be immunocompromised. It is a pickle, but there are some things you can do to lower the risk of those gatherings turning into super-spreader events. I don’t know about you, but even though I’m vaccinated, I don’t relish needing to spend an entire week sick, miserable, and in bed!

Risk mitigation is when you take an action or put a control in place that reduces the risk of bad things happening. Mitigations are rarely 100% effective, but they don’t need to be, either. When you combine two or more risk-mitigating actions or controls, you combine the risk-reducing effect they have. Combining mitigations that work in different ways (for example, providing both shade and water to people working outdoors in hot conditions) works better than each action alone does.

1. Everyone Wears a Mask

Pick a mask, any mask. As long as it fits well and is worn properly, a mask can reduce the number of viral particles ejected into the air from your nose and mouth while you are breathing, talking, singing, yelling, coughing, or even sneezing. By reducing the number of viral particles that make it into the air, you also reduce the total number of viral particles in the air.

2. Everyone Wears a (K)N95 Mask

Cloth and surgical masks are great at blocking large droplets. Certified N95 masks and their untested-but-possibly-easier-to-find cousins KN95 masks can stop fine aerosols. They also are much better at keeping air from leaking out via the edges – and they don’t tend to push against your nose the way cloth masks do. Make sure you get the kind that doesn’t have valves – those aren’t as effective because they don’t block viral particles and fine aerosols on the way out. An added benefit is that this type of mask works in both directions – it can help keep viral particles out of your respiratory system (though they won’t keep the virus out of your eyes).

3. Monitor CO2 Levels and Cross-ventilate When Necessary

Researchers at UC Boulder figured out that CO2 concentrations in a space correlate to the risk of covid-19 spread. Properly ventilating indoor spaces to reduce viral spread is a concept that dates back at least to the 1918 pandemic. The tl;dr is that you can use a CO2 monitor to tell you when you need to throw open a window or two and let in some fresh air.

However, a pro-grade CO2 monitor may cost you several hundred dollars, something a lot of people just don’t have. DIY electronics hobbyists have an alternate solution for you, though: DIY CO2 monitors.

There are a variety of plans and tutorials available, all the way from source-all-parts-yourself to programmable gadgets (such as the Raspberry Pi) that just need a CO2 sensor plugged in.

4. Add Ad-hoc Filtration

The EPA recommends increasing ventilation system airflow in both homes and institutional spaces to reduce the spread of covid-19. When modifying an existing ventilation system is cost-prohibitive, or you don’t have any control over it, an in-room filtration solution can help out. Some air filters can be very pricey – but some smart people at an air filter company – working with an environmental engineer at Portland State U – came up with an accessible, inexpensive, high-capacity solution: a 20″ box fan and some 20″ x 20″ MERV-13 rated air filters. The design calls for 5 filters, but if one side of the resulting cube is going to sit flush on a flat surface, you can probably do just 4 filters.

5. Maintain Adequate Relative Humidity

The consistently cold temperatures of winter cause relative humidity to drop. Viral particles (of all kinds) thrive in drier air. The solution? Monitor and maintain an indoor relative humidity of 40-60%. Your respiratory system will be happier. It is also harder for viruses to infect people who have sufficiently moist respiratory passages. Some DIY CO2 sensor modules will also report temperature and relative humidity, so if you’re going to build a DIY CO2 monitor, you may be able to add in humidity reporting!

In Conclusion…

The covid-19 pandemic is far from over. Life tries to go on in spite of that, but we can all take part in reducing covid transmission by adopting mitigation strategies. Don’t think your family will go for it? Try making your attendance contingent on these controls being put into place, and stick to that. Or, host the next one, and make everyone else’s attendance contingent on their compliance. Use FOMO to your advantage, here.


Image: Yoga in a Yellow Suit by Cottonbro

Adulting 101: Investing

This is part one in a series of posts where I gather resources on Topics you may have Missed Out on while growing up.

Unless you grew up in a household that participated in “investing”, you may not know what it’s all about or how it’s done. It probably looks complicated, difficult, and unreachable – especially if things like investment minimums are personal stumbling blocks. Here I’ve rounded up a series of resources to help you learn how to do it.

From Reddit’s r/PersonalFinance:

Reddit has an awesome subreddit all about Personal Finance. Below are some recent (as of this post’s publication date) threads from the PF subreddit on the topic of investing.

Books

Head on down to your local library for these. If you find one particularly useful and find yourself making return trips to re-read or check it out, that’s when you should think about buying your own copy.

Blogs and Podcasts

Listen up! Here is a small collection of blogs and podcasts focusing on beginner investing and investing when you’re starting with very little.

Wrap it up!

While you were out learning about investing, did you find something awesome that other newbies would find helpful? Share it in the comments and if it is indeed a goodie, I’ll add it to the list and give you credit for finding it!

Why Blog Advice for Your Clients?

Last fall, I started working as a social media manager for small businesses. My ideal clients don’t need a full-time social media manager, but they want to delegate social media tasks. Neither of my two clients publishes blog posts, and I’ve been advising them to start. Today, I’m doing as I say, and writing a blog post – with advice for my clients – about why it’s a good idea to blog advice for one’s clients. (Yes, we’re all very meta today.)

Two kinds of relationship

When you are running a small business, you may have two different kinds of relationship: business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B). Each has a different set of needs. You can send market reports to peers in your industry and expect that they will read (or at least skim) and understand. If you send a raw market report to your B2C contacts, you can expect their eyes to glaze over. They won’t read a wall of text with no interpretation.

If you write blog posts intended for those within your industry, share them on LinkedIn – instead of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

You’re the expert

Your clients pay you partly for your expertise. They don’t want to (or can’t) interpret the market data. They don’t know the trade secrets. They may have misconceptions about How Things Work in your area of expertise. They benefit from your advice. They can read a market report, but they may not be able to glean what the report means or why it matters. That’s where you come in.

Look at me!

A big part of the professional (B2C) social media game is getting potential clients to see you. You do that by engaging with them. You post on a regular schedule, respond to comments, and take part in the conversation.

Take a moment to go look at your colleagues’ and competitors’ professional social media accounts. Look at the amount of engagement each post receives and compare against posts of different types. Off-topic viral posts can earn you a lot of reshares and likes, but not a lot of new followers. Advertisements can receive a lot of negative responses or no response at all. Negative responses might include comments from dissatisfied customers complaining about the product.

Engagement is a measure of likes, reshares, and comments on a post. It is used as a metric in comparing audience reaction on a post-by-post basis.

Posts containing advice – explaining or simplifying things for your clients and potential clients – lie somewhere between those two extremes. Free advice has value, and providing it via social media can be a great way to grow your audience.

Not enough content to go around

Go back to those social media accounts. How many times do you see many accounts sharing the same article/blog post? Does it seem like there’s not enough content to go around? That’s a good sign that you should contribute more original content to the pool! Your clients and potential clients appreciate original content.

Your colleagues (and even your competitors, depending on the topic) will share your content on their platforms. Those shares will bring more visitors to your website. Some of those visitors will subscribe or join your regular social media audience. Some of them may even remember that you gave them good advice and may hire you in the future, or refer a client to you. All because you gave away free advice.

Some industries have services which offer pre-written, “branded” blog posts you can share with your clients. These blog posts have your photo and contact information prominently placed on the page, and are hosted by the service. Those are an effective way to get recognition, but that content is also being shared by your competitors, with their photo and contact information on the page. Branded blog posts won’t make you stand out from the crowd like your own original content will.

Tip: Use bullet lists and pull quotes to organize information.

Blogging Tools

About viral posts

Off-topic viral posts have the potential to increase the number of impressions your other posts receive. An impression happens whenever a user sees your post, even if they aren’t following you. On Facebook, when you “Like” a post, the algorithm will show you more content from the author later. 

Do consider occasionally publishing blog posts with viral content, but keep it positive or at least informative. Don’t name names and do crop people (especially minors) out of photos whenever possible. If you must include photos of people, get their permission to post. Don’t mock people or reveal their personal information.

Now what?

So, now that we’ve established that you should write blog posts for your clients, what should you include, and how?

  • Whenever possible, include at least one relevant photo. This will appear in the preview when someone shares the post on social media. Try to make it compelling, but don’t give away the whole story.
  • Intersperse your writing with extra supporting photos.
  • Visually break up your sections with sub-headers
  • Use bullet lists and pull quotes to organize information.
  • Break the information into bite-sized pieces.
  • Define industry terms your clients may not know.
  • Cite your sources. Provide direct links to appropriate resources. Drill down to the original source so your reader doesn’t have to later on.
  • Check your spelling and grammar before publishing
  • Invite your colleagues to write guest articles, even if they have their own blog. Consider accepting invitations to guest post on other reputable blogs.
  • Use others’ images responsibly, respect license terms, and include credit for anything that isn’t yours. If you’ve purchased stock photos with a license which does not require attribution, you won’t need to do this.
  • Limit the number of posts you make about luxury products and services. There is a larger pool of potential followers/clients who can’t afford or access those luxury services than those who can. Those who can afford or access luxury services will still appreciate your advice.
  • Make room in your schedule. Set aside an hour or two per week to write about a topic and stick to your schedule whenever possible.
  • Check with your social media manager – they may be willing to take your content, format it into a nice blog post, and publish it for you. In that case, the only thing you need to do is write!

Resources

  • Grammarly has an excellent browser plugin to help you with the basics. The Hemingway editor will give you more advanced advice.
  • This post was composed using the new WordPress editor, Gutenberg. It makes post layout a snap.
  • Find and subscribe to some blogs about… blogging. Try SmartBlogger’s Writing Category.
  • Subscribe to other blogs in your industry. I use Feedly to read them all in one place. Identify what’s lacking or missing and write about that.
  • Find images you can use for free at Creative Commons.

Image Credits