There’s been no known cases of Covid-19 transmission on US airlines. Sure US contact tracing isn’t very good. But even internationally and across the whole world there are only a few flights where spread is believed to have occurred despite around a billion people traveling so far this year.
With HEPA air filtration and frequent refresh of cabin air, inflight seems about as safe as you can be in am indoor congregant setting.
The terminal is another issue. Most TSA checkpoints and bins aren’t well taken care of. Delta is doing something about that at terminals they control. TSA has expressed interest in and watched demos of United UVC technology. Nonetheless gate areas too can be crowded areas without the same ventilation and filtration system as planes.
Hotels too seem to be safe. There haven’t been documented cases of spread between rooms either in hotels or office buildings.
- Office spread has occurred where there is an open floor plan. But the virus doesn’t seem to spread through HVAC systems though this is admittedly tentative. It doesn’t travel through walls, either. Your hotel room is probably low risk.
— Dena Grayson, MD, PhD (@DrDenaGrayson) April 24, 2020
- During the first SARS outbreak there was fecal transmission through plumbing in residential complexes but the issue there seemed to be “bathroom floor drains (not common in the US) with dry traps that allow air from the vent stack, which might be contaminated with fecal aerosols from other units, to flow into your bathroom.”
- Lobbies are potential areas of spread but it seems not your room itself. And resorts with outdoor spaces that have proper precautions seem safe too. Even elevators are safer than we thought, at least modern elevators with regular air exchange. The greatest risk would be standing next to someone with the virus who is talking to you or that coughs on you, rather than aerosol buildup (and your time in the elevator is usually short).
While it makes sense that business travel can’t happen – heading to indoor conference or an office that is working from home doesn’t work – and leisure travel is limited too by quarantines in places like New York and by closed borders, the fear of travel itself was way overblown.
Travel does bring the virus from one place to another even if it isn’t spreading much during travel. But that is only a real issue for places that have contained the virus, not where it is already spreading (unless hospitals are at capacity where a marginal case is itself literally a stress on the system, an edge case).
But travel isn’t really a risk to the individual the way that many people thought it was. And the trend towards driving, renting cars or RVs? Driving has always been less safe than flying and the last seven months have shown that’s still the case.