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Here’s what you need to know about CO2 monitors

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As you make moves to set up open air or outdoor dining at your operation, bear in mind the use of carbon dioxide monitors. Currently, the state is requiring CO2 monitors in certain open-air setups to monitor conditions within a restaurant. CO2 levels can help indicate that proper air flow is being maintained.

In our recent webinar on open-air dining guidance we had representatives from the Liquor & Cannabis Board and the Department of Health speak on how open-air guidance works and how CO2 monitors can play a role.

What is the goal of CO2 monitors?

Viral infection can occur regardless of CO2 levels. The state believes CO2 monitoring will determine the overall level of crowding and possible environment for infection.

“We’re going to be monitoring how much people are actually breathing inside your facility,” Susan Shelton of the Department of Health, said during the webinar. “That’s one way we can spread the virus that we’re still worried about. We’re going to be watching that, using carbon dioxide as a proxy to estimate how many people are in there breathing and how much we’re replacing the fresh, outdoor air.”

The idea here is that, more people breathing in your restaurant equates to a higher likelihood of infection.

Here’s the brass tacks:

● CO2 monitors are not the same as carbon monoxide detectors.

● The proper type of CO2 monitor is the sort that continuously reads air flow. These generally fall into a $150 price range.

● The monitors are available at major retailers, such as Home Depot, Amazon, Lowes and marine supply stores. ● These monitors should be placed in the seating area furthest away from the outdoor air source. If you have a corner of your restaurant with two solid walls and no nearby air vent, that would be a good location to determine an accurate read of your restaurant’s CO2 levels. You should have the monitors located in areas where people are seated and dining, not away from people.

What CO2 level should I be aiming for?

As of this writing, state officials are looking for a CO2 monitoring level of 450 parts per million. This would keep CO2 levels within an open-air establishment relatively level with the average CO2 level in the outdoor air. However, there are places where this can be challenging — larger urban centers, like Spokane and Seattle, may have ambient CO2 levels that typically exceed 450 parts per million.

Officials urge you to be mindful of the activity of guests and staff. Do not allow people to leave their tables, or to take their masks off to talk to one another. Everyone should be inactive, wear masks unless eating and keep masks on even when talking. The state is worried about how much people are breathing inside your restaurant, and how quickly you are replacing that air.