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What to consider when planning holiday travel

HOUSTON – New data shows some types of transportation do not carry the risk that they did at the beginning of the pandemic.

Therefore, Michael Chang, infectious disease pediatrician with UT Physicians/UT Health, says traveling this holiday season is not out of the question if you consider the following:

Individual Risk

“First, looking at the individual risks of the people who either want to travel or planning to travel,” Dr. Chang said. “Are any of the individuals that are planning to get together high risk, individuals for severe infection? So are they, over the age of 60 to 65 do they have underlying conditions?”

Community Risk

Assess the community risk. Is there a high spread in the area you’re going to or coming from?

If so, consider staying home.

Driving

Consider how you want to travel.

“Driving in a personal car is probably lower risk than say riding in a bus or in a train,” Dr. Chang said.

Flying

Airplanes, according to more recent data, might not be as unsafe as we originally thought.

At the beginning of the pandemic, studies showed when one person onboard a long-distance flight got sick, a dozen or more passengers around them also became infected.

Now, after strict mask enforcements, a study by the Department of Defense shows us the risk of transmission may be lowered by more than 99% if you’re wearing a mask.

“Wearing masks on the flight does seem to prevent, at least has so far, seems to keep like a major spread within a plane,” Dr. Chang explained. “What the study really showed is that the particles are quickly reduced in the aircraft cabin so that the risk of, you know, becoming exposed to a particle is much lower... but the study does show that aerosol and droplet particles within, at least the 777 and 767 airplanes are really quickly reduced. They don’t really spread far within the cabin and really you’re just worried about people right next to you, or in the row in front or behind you and not really any, like, you’re not worried about somebody in the front row if you’re sitting in the last row.”

While sitting on a plane wearing a mask may pose little threat, walking through the airport, standing around crowds waiting to board, and coming in contact with those high-touch surfaces still increase your risk of exposure.

The conclusion, according to Chang, is that when wearing a mask, along with the air filtration systems that the airplanes have, it seems like flying itself is low risk.

If your destination is close enough to drive to, he says it’s still better to go with that option.

Stay Home When Sick

As hard as the decision may be, stay home if you feel sick.

It’s a testament of your love for family if you choose to stay home and keep others safe from getting sick.