August 8, 2020

Flying

Most of us are not considering flying due to concern about exposure to the coronavirus during travel, especially on a plane. But sometimes, life throws a curve ball and you might have to take plane to care for a family member or friend or have some other need. Is it safe to consider at all?

This Bloomberg article called “Is it safe to fly? The Odds of Catching Covid on a Flight Are Slim”. They have tried to quantify the odds, which are actually pretty good, depending on spacing, mask wearing, empty middle seats, and the luck of having masked fellow travelers who are not contagious. A few reassuring facts are that the air is exchanged 30 times an hour on a plane and so far no super-spreader events have been traced to a plane flight. The study estimates the risk of catching coronavirus on a flight if the middle seat is empty as 1 in 7700, and the odds of dying are much lower, as low as 1 in 400,000. However, the airport itself might have risks, especially while waiting in a crowd or a security line.

So if I were in a situation where I needed to travel to care for an older relative, I would take that chance. I probably wouldn’t take a chance for work and especially for a vacation. We now know that about 40% of people who get infected, don’t have symptoms, reassuring on some levels, but is probably a big reason why we have super-spreader events. As my friend Steve Nelson says, the odds may be low overall but if you get it, that is 100% for you.

But even more than catching COVID-19 myself, which I really don’t want, I dread being in a situation where I might have exposed or given it to someone else. The stories I hear or read about show the complications and guilt that ensues when this happens. Which means even if I flew somewhere, I would want to stay in isolation for the full 14 days to avoid that scenario.

For now, I will continue to visit physically distanced, outside, wearing my mask. I will limit my exposures for myself and who I expose. And wash my hands of course.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-08-05/is-it-safe-to-fly-here-are-the-odds-of-catching-covid-on-a-plane

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/40-of-people-with-coronavirus-have-no-symptoms-might-they-be-the-key-to-ending-the-pandemic/

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/why-the-coronavirus-is-more-likely-to-superspread-than-the-flu/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/05/opinion/coronavirus-exposure-contact-tracing.html