LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Department of Defense, along with Boeing and United Airlines recently conducted an experiment to see what kind of risk COVID-19 poses to commercial air passengers. The findings could be what potential holiday travelers have been hoping to hear.
The study attempts to answer the question: What would happen if you were on a flight with someone infected with COVID-19? It found that the risk of you getting sick is actually very low if you are wearing a mask.
“Whether that’s an N-95 or a surgical mask,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of Louisville Metro Health and Wellness, “do not take it off to eat or drink while you are on the airplane, and make sure you’re washing your hands lots as well.”
In August, the DoD, working with Boeing and United Airlines devised a breathing mannequin to simulate an infected passenger. Elaborate receptors determined how much and how far droplets can be exhaled throughout the cabin. They found it would take 54 hours for mask-wearing passengers to be at risk of contracting the virus, largely thanks to onboard air circulation systems.
Passengers at Louisville Muhammad Ali International reacted cautiously.
“I also feel like every day there’s some new fact right?” asked passenger Katherine Paisley. “Where a mask, don’t wear masks. Don’t touch things, you can touch things. So yes, if that is accurate it gives me great comfort.”
“I think that this information that I already have,” passenger Alison Whipple said. “I already knew that I was going to get exposed as soon as I left the house so it made no difference whether I was on an airplane or not.”
The study only examines one piece of the COVID-19 puzzle. It does not answer questions about the risks of being on a flight with multiple infected people, or what happens when people are moving about the cabin. Still, as COVID-19 cases rise around the country, findings suggest you could be safer while you are flying than you might be at your destination.
“The list of states not to travel to keeps growing and so consider that if you’re planning on air travel,” Dr. Moyer said. “The airplane ride might be the safest part of your trip but where you’re going and how you get there not as safe.”
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