A new program can help Madison's businesses -- as well as others throughout South Dakota -- with air quality and reducing the spread of COVID-19.

It's a terrific program, and we know from experience, having taking advantage of it at The Daily Leader in recent weeks.

South Dakota State University's Economic Development Administration Center received a two-year, nearly $300,000 U.S. Department of Commerce supplemental grant to offer services aimed at mitigating COVID-19. Other indoor air quality improvements come along as a bonus.

"The novel coronavirus is spread through aerosol droplets that can travel at least 6 feet in an indoor environment and perhaps even as much as 20 feet," said Stephen Gent, a professor in SDSU's Department of Mechanical Engineering. Understanding how the air handling system and the presence of objects in the room, such as Plexiglas barriers and room dividers, change airflow patterns can help business owners protect their employees and customers.

A facility's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can be designed or retrofitted to disinfect the return air using ultraviolet rays or antiviral aerosols, pull more fresh air into the facility and change airflow rates to reduce droplet spread, he pointed out.

The grant helps pay for inspection, assessment and analysis, but it doesn't pay for actual changes, like installing heating or cooling equipment modifications.

We're very pleased with the center's recommendations at The Daily Leader, which include improved filtration, system cleaning, rerouting of air flows and adding more outside air to the building. We're just on the front end of implementing the recommendations, but we're certain they will pay off.

Businesses in Madison that would like to see improved indoor air quality should contact the center as soon as they can. We're confident it will pay off for them as well.

-- Jon M. Hunter