After months of doing a weekly video update on how to travel safely during the pandemic, last week we tried a new written format. The reaction was split between those of you in favor of text and those of you who prefer the video. We have decided to do both videos and written formats, switching as the news dictates. This week there is a lot to share so we’ll stick with the written format.
How Infections Spread
We have known for months COVID-19 spreads primarily through close, prolonged contact with an infected person. But what does that mean for specific situations? This analysis of three superspreader instances – in an office, a bus, and a restaurant – is still one of the best descriptions I have seen, even though it was published in June.
How That Relates To You
Once you understand the general theory, a tool produced by the Brown University medical school will help you apply it to your situation. For example, let’s say I want to visit a friend’s house for Thanksgiving in our home town of Red Lodge, Montana. There will be eight people there for two hours and, because we will be eating and because we all know and trust each other, we won’t be wearing masks. What’s my risk? High, according to the tool. Check out My COVID Risk to play around with your own scenarios (Note: it seems to work best on a phone or tablet).
Another Study Re Airline Safety
Yet another study has concluded the risk of infection on airlines is low if people are wearing masks. The Harvard study credits the air filtration systems. This is good news for the airline industry. Just type “Harvard Study on airline safety” into your web browser and you’ll have your choice of news outlets that reported on this. The study did not address the issue of middle seats. I have also not seen a study yet on the safety of airports themselves.
More Airline News
On December 1, Southwest Airlines will end its policy of filling middle seats. I would not fly with them while other airlines, like Delta, are still keeping middle seats open. On the positive side, United Airlines is going to do a pilot study on one flight route from Newark to London in which it will require all passengers to take a free COVID-19 test in advance. As I have been saying for months, testing is the solution for airline travel. As I have also been saying, it would make a lot more sense to have this as a national policy with testing done prior to entering through security rather than leaving it up to individual airports and airlines.
My Take: Travel Is Not Safe Right Now
I frequently get asked by friends if it is safe to travel and how they should do so. My answer is generally that it is safe to travel via car or airline; that lodging is generally safe; that people should avoid indoor dining; and that outdoor activity is the way to go. Now, however, things have changed. The holidays are approaching and travel mostly is going to mean getting together with friends and family outside your bubble. The weather is worse and get-togethers will have to move indoors. What’s more, we are in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 infections, which means your confidence level that your friends, your family, or you yourself aren’t infected should be much lower than it was even a month ago. My conclusion? For most people and most occasions, the next few months is not the time to travel, not just for your own sake but to help us get a grip on fighting this pandemic to keep others in your community safe as well.