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This Simple Trick Cuts Your Coronavirus Risk in Half

An MIT statistician claims this is how we should all be flying the friendly skies.

The question on the minds of many Americans: How safe is it to travel by airplane? While the majority of the country opted to shelter-in-place for several months, forgoing air travel altogether, over the last month it has significantly picked up. If you are looking to travel the friendly skies as safely as possible, Professor Arnold Barnett, a statistician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims there is one easy way to cut your chances of catching the incredibly infectious and potentially deadly virus.

This Simple Trick Reduces Your Risk

The trick is to make sure the middle seat next to you is empty. Barnett points to recent research and data, estimating that when all coach seats are full on a US jet aircraft, your risk of contracting COVID-19 from a nearby passenger is about 1 in 7,000—which would equate to ten people getting sick for every 70,000 travelers. However, if the middle seat next you is empty, your risk is cut in half to just 1 in 14,000. An even better way to reduce the risk even more, is by reducing the amount of passengers even more. 

Barnett also points out that you have more of a chance dying of COVID-19 that you contracted on an airplane than dying in a plane crash, but overall your chances of mortality due to the virus and air travel are "probably less than one in one million."

Barnett points out that leaving the seat empty shows a "measurable reduction" in transmission risk. "The question is whether relinquishing one third of seating capacity is too high a price to pay for the added precaution," he writes. He adds that there is also another option in which the infection rate on airplanes would  "essentially drop to zero"—if there was a thin layer of plexiglass between seats.

The good news is, a number of airlines—Alaska, Delta, jetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Frontier, EasyJet, and Spirit—currently have a "middle seat empty" policy in place.  

Wear Your Face Mask

Barnett's non peer-reviewed study was based on the assumption that travelers would only get sick from sitting in the same row as an infected passenger, potential infection during boarding or deplaning, walking around the aircraft, or due to the virus being left on any surfaces. It also made the assumption that no passengers were wearing masks—which can reduce transmission by 80%. 

No matter where you're going, or how you get there, wear your face mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, monitor your health, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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