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Experts: Risk of getting infected with COVID-19 on an airplane relatively low


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Would you feel safe flying if your risk of catching the COVID-19 virus was just 1 in 4,300?

Those are odds quantified by MIT’s Sloan School of Management professor and aviation safety expert Arnold Barnett. They are based on a two hour flight within the United States with full safety precautions.

Take passengers out of middle seats and odds go to 1 in 7,700. The Sloan School has shown consistent accuracy in predicting many COVID-19 outcomes throughout the pandemic through its analytics website.

Yale infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Manisha Juthani, weighs in. She says she would not travel for leisure at this time, but knows life events are a different story.

“You’re taking a calculated risk, there’s not no risk, but I think with air the way it circulates in planes nowadays, along with masks, hopefully if you are leaving from a place that is low risk to begin with. If you can get a window seat, if that middle seat is left unoccupied, these are safer things,” she says.

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers were able to track how infected passengers spread the virus to those sitting around them. Since March, many safety measures have been put into place to stop the virus from spreading.

“Sometimes middle seats are left open, everybody is required to wear a mask, so that risk of transmissions goes that much further down because of these new interventions that we’ve put in place,” says Dr. Juthani.

She has studied how viruses like COVID-19 spread in contained spaces.

“The good news is if somebody is coughing or sneezing is at the front of the plane and you’re at the back of the plane, the chances of you getting something is extremely low.”

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