Some experts say flying is now safer than grocery shopping. Great?

masked passengers in airplane
Photo: Hispanolistic (Getty Images)

According to Simplemost, Researchers from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard suggest that flying during the pandemic is actually safer than doing everyday things such as grocery shopping. Goddammit.

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Just something to note: Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s new Aviation Public Health Initiative is paid for by the aviation industry. The researchers state that their findings, however, are their own independent ones. What they’re seeing is that because the airflow in airplanes is constantly filtered and refreshed through the flight, it mitigates much of the risk involved in passengers being so close together.

Plus, there’s the whole mask thing along with extra sanitizing procedures as well, along with social distancing protocols during boarding and deplaning. Now that being said, there’s still a risk involved. According to a report from Eurosurveillance, a 7-hour international flight to Ireland was linked to 57 COVID-19 cases while the flight was only 17% full. Yikes.

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The CDC guidelines say to cover your bases by doing these things (paraphrased by yours truly):

  • Wear a mask.
  • Try going early in the morning and late at night, when the store is less busy.
  • Some stores have special hours for high-risk customers, so contact your local market to see if that’s an option.
  • If you’re using reusable bags, make sure you clean them before each use. Some places have banned reusable bags for the time being (though I think by now you likely know whether or not this is the case)
  • Disinfect your cart if the wipes are available.
  • Don’t mess with your face if you haven’t washed your hands prior!
  • Social distance, people.
  • Don’t be one of those people that touches a bunch of things and then puts them back.
  • Touchless payment is ideal, otherwise sanitize your hands if you’ve interacted with a payment device such as a keypad, or if you’re dealing with cash.

Just a friendly reminder from a food writer who has to visit the grocery store fairly often during the pandemic, terrified.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

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The bottom line of this study claims that their computer models show airplane ventilation systems have strong filtration that trap 99% of SARS-CoV-2 and blow directly into passengers’ faces which cause infected droplets to hit the ground rather than float about.

However, it entirely ignores the rest of the flying experience, calling it a “gate to gate” study so they can leave out the time travelers spend exposed in airports.

If you magically could transport yourself from your home to the airplane without any exposure anywhere else, perhaps flying might be safer — although trusting your life to this biased study and its narrow computer model and the idea that the elimination of 99% of something as virulent as COVID is good enough seems dubious at best.