Flying In the Age of Covid-19
The evidence of how indoor spaces facilitate transmission keeps mounting. There are recent publications describing a COVID-19 outbreak cluster associated with a bus excursion where 23 out of 67 passengers became infected, a person's outing to a nightclub that led to at least 80 new cases, and a training workshop where 15 of 30 attendees all became ill. In addition to these studies, an important study published on Wednesday revealed findings that 1 minute of loud speaking could create at least 1,000 respiratory droplets that remain suspended in the air for up to 8 minutes. They estimated, but did not experimentally demonstrate, that these droplets may contain between 1,000-100,000 infectious viral particles.
Now that we have strong evidence demonstrating the ease with which this virus can be transmitted in enclosed spaces, we must start to evaluate our decisions to bring large numbers of people together, especially in stressful situations.
These new examples and the science that is supporting transmission via respiratory emissions must make us pause and carefully consider our individual decisions about where we go and how long we spend in public locations, to the extent that our lives and employment situations allow us to choose where we spend our days.
Key things to take with you:
· Small hand sanitizers that would get through TSA screening.
Disinfecting wipes. Take disinfecting wipes and put them in a clear Ziploc bag.
In the Airport:
Don't touch surfaces.
If you do touch something sanitize your hands.
Don't touch your face and keep your mask on at all times.
Play it overly cautious, keep an appropriate physical distance from people to avoid getting crowded in check points.
This is important: It is our interactions with people that lead to transmission chains. The more interactions, the greater the chance of either infection or transmission. While in the airport, (if you can) have a single person for all person-to-person interactions with airport staff or shops.
On the plane:
Stop touching surfaces! Wipe down every single surface you touch. Armrest. Table. Monitor etc.
But It's An Enclosed Space!
A plane is a seriously enclosed space, with little air volume, and you are there for an extended period. It appears to have all of the parameters needed for outbreak calamity. But there is a big difference with planes compared to other enclosed spaces because planes have substantial air-filtration and air-exchange.
On modern Boeing planes (others may be the same), the entire air volume of the cabin is exchanged with outside air every 4 to 5 minutes (12 to 15 cabin air exchanges per hour). Additionally, the cabin air is filtered through a HEPA filtration system 25-30 times per hour.
As a point of reference:
HEPA Filters: are required to capture 99.97% of all particles >0.3 micrometers.
N95 respirators: are required to capture 95% of all particles >0.3 micrometers
So the HEPA filters in a plane have a higher filtering capacity than the N95 masks doctors and nurses are wearing when they are caring for COVID-19 patients. Granted, the respirators filter 100% of inhaled air, but the point is, aircraft have a substantial air filtration capacity.
The design of the air filtration systems on planes divides the planes up into zones of about 5-7 rows per zone. The bigger the plane, the more zones. Basically, the plane is divided up into air compartments so the emissions from someone 10 rows behind you is going to have little effect on you due to the zoning, filtration, and air exchange.
The little air nozzle above your head shoots our air directly from the HEPA filter. Directing that airstream on you increases the amount of HEPA-purified air you are inhaling. Turn it on!
Note: Aircraft air starts to deteriorate when you are on the ground. Wait to get on the plane, and don't linger getting off the plane.