Flying during a pandemic: The risks in addition to also how to make which safer

(CNN) — In any additional year, we’d be happily flying over the rivers in addition to also past the woods to get to Grandma’s house more quickly for the holidays. although which’s 2020, in addition to also globally there are more than 1.3 million deaths through the novel coronavirus so far — with no end in sight.
“I’m particularly worried about air travel,” said pediatrician Dr. David Rubin, who directs PolicyLab, a research in addition to also public policy center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The center is usually tracking Covid-19 cases in communities across the country.

“I almost think which cars are safer for those who are traveling, because which’s just you in addition to also whoever you’re traveling with,” Rubin said. “At least you don’t develop the situation of a packed airplane where there might be several Covid-19 positive individuals on the plane.”

Masking in addition to also maintaining as much distance as possible are key to reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Masking in addition to also maintaining as much distance as possible are key to reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

No way to keep virus off flights

which means safety checks put into place by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — as Great as they may be — aren’t likely to catch anyone who is usually shedding the virus without obvious symptoms such as cough or fever.

“If you’re on a big plane today there’s a reasonable chance which someone who’s infected with Covid-19 is usually going to be on which plane,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil in addition to also environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who is usually a leading expert in aerosol transmission of viruses.

“I believe which with the pressure to get home for Thanksgiving there are going to be people who test positive (for coronavirus) who are going to jump on the airplane anyway,” Rubin said.

Plane ventilation systems

When which comes to infectious disease, airplanes have an excellent safety record because the air people breathe while flying is usually some of the most filtered air in travel, according to Joseph Allen, who directs the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The air in (many) planes is usually a 50/50 mix of outdoor air in addition to also recirculated air,” Allen said. “The outdoor air is usually bled off the engine, conditioned in addition to also delivered into the cabin. The additional 50% is usually recirculated air which goes through HEPA filters.”

All major commercial jets have ventilation systems with high-quality HEPA filters capable of removing 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria in addition to also additional airborne particles having a size as little as 0.3 microns. For comparison, Covid-19 is usually thought to be between 0.06 to 1.4 microns.

When those ventilation systems are running in addition to also everyone is usually masked, the risk of Covid-19 is usually greatly reduced, according to Marr.

“I would likely say going to a restaurant is usually riskier than sitting on an airplane on one of the bigger jets,” Marr said. “which’s the additional parts of the trip which concern me more.”

The rest of the air travel experience

Take the boarding process. Jet causeways can be packed, as people stack up waiting their turn — only to enter a parked plane which likely has little to no air recirculation.

“During boarding which’s when there’s usually no ventilation — the planes don’t have their auxiliary power units going, they’re not often tied into the gate-based ventilation systems,” Allen said.

If every seat is usually sold in addition to also the boarding process is usually slow, which may up your odds until the air flow in addition to also filtration starts.

“We’ve done measurements on airplanes when people are boarding, in addition to also we see high levels of carbon dioxide, which is usually an indicator which there’s insufficient ventilation,” Allen said.

Trains in addition to also airport shuttles also put you in closer-than-6-feet contact with others; in addition to also if you traveled to the airport in an Uber or taxi, you were in another little space.

“Think about the entire travel-related experience,” Allen said. “You may be taking a taxi or a bus or subway, dealing with security queues, or visiting the restaurant at the airport.”

Here’s the key question to answer: No matter how safe plane travel is usually — in addition to also no matter how well ventilated an airplane cabin on a major airline may be — should you fly for the holidays?

No, says Allen. “Right today, we shouldn’t be traveling unless which’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “which’s difficult, we all are suffering through pandemic fatigue, we’re ready because of This specific to be over, although the reality is usually which’s not over.

“We have a shared responsibility to act appropriately in addition to also minimize how quickly This specific virus continues to spread.”

Tips to lessen your risk

What if, despite your best efforts to avoid air travel, which does become a necessity to fly? Here are experts tips on how to reduce your risk of catching Covid-19 along your journey.

Fly short distances.

The amount of time you’re exposed to the virus matters, according to CNN commentator Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist in addition to also professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

In May, he wrote a blog post viewed millions of times which defined the likelihood of catching the virus with This specific equation: “Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time.” Apply which to air travel in addition to also which follows which shorter flights will expose you to less virus, thus reducing your risk.

“The rare cases where we have seen transmission on airplanes which’s on the long flights, the ones which are a few hours, or more like nine hours, 14 hours,” Marr said.

  • Tip: Need to fly longer than a few hours? Break up the trip, Marr suggests. Fly several shorter hops, with time to get off the plane in addition to also into fresh air. Or drive part of the way in addition to also fly the rest.

Plan your transportation to the airport.

If you have to take an Uber, Lyft or taxi to the airport, make sure you, your family in addition to also the driver are all masked throughout the journey — in addition to also be sure to roll down the windows to encourage air flow, Allen said.

“We’ve done some modeling on This specific, we’re showing which even rolling down the windows just a couple inches can genuinely help with airborne transmission,” he said. “in addition to also you want to put down the windows even if which’s inclement weather. A little bit will genuinely help.”

  • Tip: You can also drive yourself in addition to also the people in your “pod” to the airport in addition to also leave the automobile parked. Even then, Allen said, roll down the windows.

Wear a proper mask, the proper way, for the entire journey.

Wear a mask which covers your mouth in addition to also nose throughout your flight in addition to also stay seated as much as possible.

Wear a mask which covers your mouth in addition to also nose throughout your flight in addition to also stay seated as much as possible.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“You want to have a minimum two-ply mask, preferably a three-ply mask,” said Allen, who has focused his career on “sick buildings” in addition to also how they affect worker performance in addition to also productivity.
Look for a tight weave of 100% cotton, according to studies. Use the light test to check the weave: If you can easily see the outline of the individual fibers when you hold up the mask to the light, which’s not likely to be effective.

“In addition to level of filtration, we have to pay attention to fit,” Allen continued. “You want the mask to go over the bridge of the nose, below the chin in addition to also be flush on the face, resting along the skin. You want your breath going through the filter media in addition to also not escaping out the sides.”

Even the most protective mask will fail if you wear which wrong. Full face coverage is usually necessary at all times, in addition to also which means no letting which slip under your nose, please.

Consider a face shield.

If you’re high risk, you might consider adding a face shield over the face mask, said Dr. Henry Wu, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“We don’t quite develop the data yet to say how much additional protection which offers,” Wu said, “although which may have some additive value, particularly in terms of larger respiratory droplets directly getting into your eyes.”

although don’t rely on a shield alone, Wu cautioned: “Wearing a face shield does not negate the need to wear a face mask.”

Air travel has picked up significantly since its near standstill in March. The TSA screened more than a million passengers on October 19.

Air travel has picked up significantly since its near standstill in March. The TSA screened more than a million passengers on October 19.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Carry the essentials.

Along with which highly protective mask, you should definitely bring disinfecting wipes in addition to also a 3-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol. which’s the level needed to kill most coronaviruses, according to the CDC.

Don’t be fooled by the “99.9%” effective marketing language you may see on the bottle. Instead, check the ingredients for alcohol levels or look for the US Food in addition to also Drug Administration’s “Drug Facts” label. You can also check out the FDA list of approved disinfectants.

Before you sit, use sanitizing wipes on your seat in addition to also arm rest on the plane, in addition to also don’t forget your seat belt, the filtration nozzle in addition to also light buttons above your head, the video monitor in addition to also the back of the seat in front of you.

Bring your own ear buds, neck pillow in addition to also blanket if you think you need them, in addition to also don’t forget snacks you can bring through home, such as dried fruit, nuts, cheese in addition to also crackers. Most airlines have reduced meal service to a minimum.

Maintaining 6 feet of social distance in airports can be challenging.

Maintaining 6 feet of social distance in airports can be challenging.

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Build in extra time.

Don’t expect to breeze through the airport as in days of old. which takes more time to social distance during baggage drop off in addition to also security checks. Minimize the time you spend in security — no loose change, no belts, no shoes with ties, take off in addition to also store your jacket in advance — in addition to also have your laptop in addition to also carry-on toiletries at the ready.

Stay in your seat if you can.

Getting up in addition to also moving around puts you closer to others on the plane, in addition to also visiting the bathroom opens up a whole brand-new set of potentially germy things to touch. Try to prepare for which in advance, Wu said, by “having your meals before the flight in addition to also doing your bathroom breaks on the layovers.”

If you must take a bathroom break on the plane, which’s all the more reason for having hand sanitizer at the ready, Wu said.

“which’s a much better approach than wearing gloves,” he said. “The reality is usually the gloves just protect the surfaces of your hands. The outside of the glove is usually obviously still dirty, in addition to also if you have dirty gloves in addition to also are touching your face, which’s genuinely no different than not having gloves.”

Quarantine upon arrival — both ways.

“Don’t rely on a negative test on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in addition to also think which clears you to be with your family,” Rubin said. “Quarantining for a week in addition to also a half when you arrive is usually your best way to assure which you’re likely to be negative.”

Taking which precaution works both ways, Allen said.

“I do think which’s responsible which when you arrive somewhere or you return which you quarantine in addition to also make sure you’re not bringing infection into a brand-new area or returning one to wherever you live,” he said.

This specific is usually not the time for luxury travel or vacation travel,” Allen added, “although if you absolutely must travel — in addition to also there are many reasons why people have to travel — you just have to take extra precautions.”

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