Several Sackville groups are turning to DIY solutions to keep their spaces as virus-free as possible.
They're making Corsi–Rosenthal boxes, a homemade air purifier system, designed to filter out airborne droplets that could carry the flu or COVID-19. Filter Plastic Mould
David Thomas, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, has helped make at least 20 of the filter boxes and has hosted workshops to teach people how to make them.
He said he's helped the Sackville Commons Co-op community group and two local Anglican churches build their own boxes and has been lending out boxes he's made to other groups and individuals.
"I lent a couple out to Sappyfest in the summer, and they put them where the musicians were eating their lunch," said Thomas.
"I've lent them out to friends and neighbours if they've had COVID in their house … I built three more myself, two to be put on campus in the Indigenous gathering space."
Shoshanna Wingate, a writer and poet who organized the making of the filter boxes for the commons, borrowed one from Thomas when she contracted COVID-19 earlier this year.
She said neither her partner nor two children caught the virus from her.
"I sort of put it in the hallway between the bedrooms, and none of the rest of the family got COVID while I was sick," said Wingate,
"We were all really careful, and obviously I wasn't coming out of my room without a mask on, but we managed to keep it away from the rest of the family."
Corsi–Rosenthal boxes are the brainchild of American engineer Richard Corsi and Jim Rosenthal, the CEO of filter manufacturer Tex-Air Filters.
The boxes are made of four MERV13 furnace filters taped together to make a cube. These can filter out bacteria and droplets from coughs and sneezes. A common household box fan is taped to the top allowing for air to be drawn in and pushed through the filters.
And at least one study seems to back up the boxes as a legitimate alternative to HEPA filters.
A study published in the environmental science journal Science of The Total Environment said the box "compares favourably in performance to the tested HEPA air purifiers."
Wingate says the materials to make the boxes are readily available from retailers, and at just over $100 cost much less than store-bought air purifiers.
The other benefit to the boxes is they're relatively easy to build, Thomas said.
"I always say if I could figure it out pretty much anyone can, because I'm not a handy person by any stretch of the imagination," he said.
The six boxes at the Sackville Commons have been in use for about a month now, during events like the weekly farmers market.
Wingate said the commons wanted to open up more to the public while also making the space as safe as possible.
"I thought this is going to be really important for accessibility and to make sure that we're a safe space," said Wingate.
Thomas said he thinks it's important to do as much as possible to limit the spread of respiratory illnesses, especially during the current crisis in hospitals.
"If you're in a space that doesn't have good ventilation, especially in winter when we can't have windows and stuff open, these things are gonna be really important to help clean the indoor air," said Thomas.
Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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