Is It Safe to Fly During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Expert Says

Experts say you should still avoid unnecessary travel—but what if you need to get on a plane?

Coronavirus Updates :Is It Safe to Fly During the Coronavirus Pandemic? ,Is It Safe to Fly During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Is it safe to fly during Coronavirus pandemic

Stay-at-home orders have lifted in many parts of the country and, with that, plenty of people are trying to figure out what    is(and isn’t) OK to do now that COVID-19 is practically everywhere. A big question as people itch to travel this summer: Is it safe to fly yet? After all, airplanes don’t exactly have the best reputation for keeping people healthy, even in non-pandemic circumstances.

“Crowded airplanes have always been a source of concern for the spread of infections,” says Michael Gochfeld, M.D., Ph.D., professor emeritus at the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. “Usually this was taken without any consideration and didn't cause anxiety, but with COVID-19, it might be hard to not worry . The likelihood of transmission of the COVID-19 virus seems to be greater than influenza and common cold viruses.”

First, a quick recap on how COVID-19 spreads.

The novel coronavirus mainly spreads from person-to-person, particularly among those who are within six feet of each other, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An infected person produces respiratory droplets when they cough, sneeze, and talk. Those droplets can then land within the mouths or noses of healthy people nearby, making them sick within the process.

There’s been a lot of talk about getting sick from touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus, and then putting your unwashed hands in your nose, mouth, or eyes. While you can contract COVID-19 this way, the CDC says that it’s “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

So when should (and shouldn’t) you fly at this point?

If you feel unwell or if you’ve been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, you should not be on an airplane. But, even if you feel healthy, experts say you should still avoid inessential flights right now. “I advise against leisure travel,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University.

If you can avoid taking a flight and just drive to your destination, that’s a less risky move for now—but what happens if you need to get on a plane? It all comes down to individual risk, but “airlines are working hard to try to make it as safe as possible to fly,” says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

That includes requiring passengers to wear face coverings on the flight and limiting the number of seats available to keep people spaced out (even this is difficult to do). Budget airline RyanAir even announced recently that people will need to ask to use the bathroom to prevent lines from forming in the aisles.

What precautions you should take while travelling in Coronavirus pandemic

You need to think about your journey in different segments: getting to the airport, waiting for your flight at the airport, being on the plane, and getting off the plane. Each of those instances comes with slightly different risks to consider and safety precautions to take.

On the way to the airport

Driving your own car is the best way to limit your contact with people outside of your household, says Dr. Watkins. “If not, wear a mask and hope your driver is wearing one, too,” he says. The same rules apply if you’re taking public transit to the airport. Try not to touch anything you don’t have to and use hand sanitizer as soon as you get out of the car, train, or bus.

Coronavirus Updates :Is It Safe to Fly During the Coronavirus Pandemic? ,Is It Safe to Fly During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Is it safe to fly during the coronavirus pandemic

At the airport

You’ll want to do your best to avoid “anywhere people congregate,” says Dr. Adalja. He recommends steering clear of the bathroom (if you can) or trying to use it when few—or no—other people are in it to maintain some distance.

Crowds round the gate, in line to urge food, or waiting to urge on the plane also can be problematic, Dr. Adalja says, so do your best to space out from others in those situations.

On the plane

Your biggest risk here is sitting next to a stranger who could be infected. “They could have no symptoms and still be shedding the virus,” Dr. Watkins says. If you’re able, try to wipe down all commonly-touched surfaces around you when you sit down, like the armrests and tray table. If you need to use the bathroom, try to do it when there’s not a line—that only increases your risk of exposure.

What's the safest seat to select?

People sitting on the aisle are more likely to be in contact with other passengers and crew members as they walk down the aisle or take something out of the overhead bins.
"If it's a crowded flight," gendreau michel says, "you can't go up those aisles without accidentally touching someone who's just seated there."
Those passengers by the window are also less likely to get up during the flight to use the bathroom or move around – activities that can also expose you to other people and surfaces.
gendreau michel says in this era of not-so-crowded flights, he'd go for a window or middle seat instead of an aisle.
Wu's pick? "Wherever is the most distant from others.

What if my face gets itchy?

Don't touch it.

Sanitize your hands, put on your mask and adjust it so it's comfortable — and then leave it alone.

"If I've got an itchy eye or something, it's my forearm that's getting it unless I sanitize my hand," says Gendreau.

What preventive measures can I take if someone starts coughing or sneezing a lot? 

If someone is hacking nearby, hopefully they're wearing a mask. If they're sitting close to you, you might want to move seats if possible.

If you can't, Gendreau says, try to convert your mask into one that seals more tightly against your face. He suggests a technique demonstrated by a former Apple engineer, in which three rubber bands are stretched over top of a mask to create a seal over the mouth and nose.

Gendreau would also reach up and switch on the adjustable air passage above your head, referred to as a gasper. He recommends turning it to a medium flow and angling it so the air current is directed slightly in front of your face. He says that by turning the gasper on, you might be able to add some turbulence to the air in your space. Modeling studies have shown, he says, that opening the gasper for additional air flow "does create some extra turbulence in your personal air space and that might create enough turbulence where the particle doesn't sort of land on your mask or on your arm."

Leaving the plane and airport

As much as you can, Dr. Adalja says it’s a good idea to try to space yourself out from others as you leave the plane and wait for your luggage at baggage claim. Try not to linger and leave the airport ASAP.

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