Record-breaking temperatures have made local cooling centers an invaluable resource for people looking to combat the heat. And with reports of an increase in the latest strain of COVID-19, filitering that air becomes equally important.
To that end, students in the Applied Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Lab at Arizona State University have worked throughout the summer to build 30 Corsi-Rosenthal (CR) boxes — inexpensive do-it-yourself air purifiers — to provide to cooling centers throughout the metro Phoenix area at no cost.
“We have unfortunately recorded 39 heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County in the 2023 season,” said Professor Megan Jehn, an epidemiologist with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change who directs the lab.
“Cooling centers are an important part of a heat response plan and can save lives. However, as we bring groups together to access cooling assistance, we want to do what we can to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants, including wildfire smoke and virus-laden aerosol particles," she said.
"Adding a DIY air cleaner to a room has been shown to reduce aerosol exposure by up to 73%,” Jehn said.
The First United Methodist Church of Mesa received two CR boxes this summer for their cooling room, where they also provide free food and showers to those experiencing homelessness.
“I think it is such a benefit to have in our facility,” said Jess Brown, secretary of the church. “Because it’s something really simple that we can offer people that increases the quality of the services we’re offering.
"It’s just a win-win situation for everybody.”
Brown says the program runs off donations, and visitors with an ID can use the cool-down room and shower year-round.
Brown estimates the church helps about 25 people a week.
The AIDE team has also donated CR boxes to the Salvation Army in Apache Junction, the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA, and the Florence and Mesa Public Libraries.
Since 2021, a total of 400 CR boxes from the lab have been donated across Arizona.
The donations of CR boxes from the AIDE lab to cooling centers are part of a multi-pronged project funded by the Balvi Foundation.
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