Seasoned epidemiologists and expert health advisors over at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend people avoid traveling home for the holidays altogether. There was a significant surge in cases and hospitalizations after the travel boom pre and post Thanksgiving.
According to this report travelers still took the risk to commune with loved ones over turkey, sides, and sweet potato pie despite warnings from the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving the TSA reported over one million fliers that went through the gates to travel to various COVID-19 hot spots across the country.
Now that we are nine months into this pandemic people are acting more reckless and have become far more lax when it comes to SARS-CoV-2 mitigation behaviors due to pandemic related fatigue, such as long bouts of separation from your community and loved ones.
“No risk is better than lower risk. Given the rise in cases throughout many parts of the U.S., the best advice is to avoid travel at this time.”
I hope we can learn from the mistakes of our past behavior and not repeat recent history by avoiding these specific modes of transportation if we decide to travel for December festivities.
Avoid buses as they are high-risk COVID transmission hot spots
Buses are by far the most dangerous way to travel home for the holidays this year. Why are buses far more dangerous than trains, planes, or automobiles? Buses usually take longer to get where they are going. This increases the odds for transmission since buses are unable to filtrate air or sanitize every few hours with passengers all stuck together for long periods of time.
Greyhound buses took the necessary due diligence and upgraded their ventilation systems on their buses. However, smaller commercial fleets simply cannot afford to invest in such expensive upgrades considering pandemic travel restrictions cut down on the amount of travelers and ticket sales this year, crippling their already small budgets to begin with.
Since it takes significantly longer to get from point a to point b, the chances passengers will remove or displace their mask is much higher. The tight quarters and packed seats and aisles make it nearly impossible to properly social distance also adding to the cocktail of issues that add to your increased risk of contracting or spreading this deadly virus.
This recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine examines the unique dangers a poorly ventilated bus imposes on every passenger on board with just one sick person riding.
Back in March before strict mask-wearing mitigation mandates were in place two busses traveling from China to a Buddist worship event were studied after an outbreak occurred. One sick passenger on a poorly ventilated bus infected the rest of the 24 travelers on board. The bus with proper filtration systems installed had no cases reported.
This highlights the importance of traveling in well ventilated spaces so dangerous droplets and viral loads can’t be spread via aerosol transmission. Let’s take a look at some safer ways to travel because improved ventilation is easier to control under those circumstances.
Less risky ways to travel during the holidays
The safest way to travel this year, if you must, is by airplane or driving your own car. Airplanes are safe because they have turbo-charged ventilation systems installed to prevent recycled air from entering the cabin and potentially exposing others to the virus.
A large percent of people afflicted are asymptomatic so they may be unaware they have the potential to infect others. Several airlines also instilled strict mask-wearing mandates and some require temperature checks and negative COVID test results before allowing passengers to board.
Cars are also a much safer alternative to visiting your family to ring in the new year because you are in an enclosed space with people from your household. This way you are separate from other travellers who may have engaged in risky behavior unbeknownst to you.
As long as you stick to taking road trips with people who live in the same house as you, you should be safe. Make the long trip fun by planning to stop by landmarks in nature you’d never get the chance to drive by otherwise! Crack the windows for extra ventilation to protect passengers.
Trains could be an option, but according to health experts the risk involved with traveling via “the romance of the rails” lies somewhere between flying and taking a bus to a far away destination.
You can’t account for other travelers mitigation behaviors, wherein the risk lies. Amtrak has attempted to improve matters through installing air filtration devices that change out air 12-15 times per hour. Train conductors have also been more vigilant in enforcing strict mask wearing mandates aboard vessels.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warns travelers the risk involved with certain modes of transportation vary widely depending on individual circumstances. If you or anyone you live with is in the high-risk category for a fatal COVD-19 case, it’s best to avoid travel altogether.
Travel at your own risk and please be mindful of transmission mitigation efforts around large crowds in communities outside of your own.