Experts: This Simple Thermostat Tweak Could Help Prevent New COVID Variant Infection

Updated: Jan. 08, 2024

As a newer variant has increased COVID-related hospital admissions, scientists announce there's an innovative way to keep the air clear.

In December 2023, a new variant of interest was named the most dominant strain of COVID in the country. Dubbed JN.1, this Omicron subtype appears to infect people—quickly—who’ve been vaccinated or have had previous infections.

Fortunately, in general JN.1 doesn’t appear to cause more severe symptoms than other recent strains have. However, due to its high transmissibility and relatively low vaccination rates, it is responsible for a new wave of infections, with COVID hospitalizations increasing by greater than 20% throughout the month of December, which the World Health Organization called “a notable increase.”

Due to the rising infection and hospitalization rates, the CDC has once again called for vaccinations. The agency has also asked people to protect themselves in the ways that have consistently been recommended: Get the updated COVID-19 vaccine, wear masks in crowded settings and healthcare facilities if you feel ill or are immunocompromised, and test if you have any symptoms. (Be sure to retest in a few days if the result is negative.)

And now, there’s another simple trick to try at home: If visitors enter your home—friends or family, the babysitter, a handyman—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests there are ways can make your home a little less hospitable to the COVID virus.

Improving ventilation is a great move to enhance the flow of air and remove any airborne viruses from your immediate vicinity, and opening the windows is an easy option.

But if you live in the Northeast, Midwest, or another chilly area of the country, there are a few other ways, including a handy hack with your thermostat.

Unless things really warm up or a cold snap hits, you probably set your thermostat to your preferred temperature and forget about it. Typically, people choose the “auto” function, and the fan will turn on and run for a short while as the heat adjusts to the desired temperature.

However, if you are having people over and don’t know their vaccination or COVID-19 status, you can change the setting to “on,” and it will run continuously. According to the CDC, this will help keep the air circulating and, hopefully, usher the virus particles away from you and your guests.

This is a low-tech way of improving air quality that you can use in cooler climates. Here are some other tips from the CDC to enhance your air quality:

  • Use a high-quality HEPA filter and ensure it fits correctly and is replaced regularly.
  • Invest in a portable air cleaner.
  • Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans when guests are over and keep them running for an hour after your guests leave.
  • Use portable fans to direct air outside and use ceiling fans to keep the air circulating.
  • Limit visitors and gather in larger rooms in your home.

Now that COVID-19 is a virus we need to navigate consistently, it’s important to find clever ways to connect with others…without letting in germs as unwelcome guests.