Woman disinfects table with spray disinfectant liquid. Coronavirus covid-19 prevention

As people nationwide and across the world are encouraged to stay home, those who must perform what’s been called “essential travel” may find themselves worrying about how to best protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus. Business Insider consulted expert advice in order to determine how to best prevent yourself from contracting the coronavirus during essential travel.

From maintaining social distance to checking into the airport ahead of time, here are ways to protect yourself and others while traveling.

To start with, don’t travel unless it is absolutely necessary. If you don’t need to travel, the CDC, government officials, and experts are urging Americans to stay home.

Dr. Stephen Luby, a professor of medicine specializing in infectious diseases at Stanford University, spoke to Business Insider about the risks of traveling, and how people can best protect themselves.

“What puts people more at risk while traveling is that they come in contact with lots of other people, and also there’s prolonged exposure to other people and shared surfaces in a confined space,” Dr. Luby said.

In New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the CDC has issued a travel advisory against any non-essential domestic travel for at least 14 days, beginning March 28, 2020. This travel advisory does not affect employees of “critical infrastructure industries,” including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.

If you live in another state, it’s still advised that you practice social distancing and only leave the house for essential activities like food or receiving medical care.

“[If you do need to travel,] this would be a time where you might drive your car instead of taking mass transport,” Dr. Luby told Business Insider.

Managers should try to limit the number of higher-risk “essential employees” they require to travel into work.

Dr. Luby recommended that if employers do require employees to travel or commute into work, they should aim to limit the number of higher-risk employees doing so.

“My first thought when considering how to protect people who are traveling is, how old is this traveler? Can we send someone from the company who’s younger, especially if the person is over 50? People who were between the ages of 60 and 70 in China, of those who were recognized, died at a rate of around 2%,” Dr. Luby said. “We know there is a large number of unrecognized infections, so the numbers are not perfectly accurate, but we’re seeing similar fatality ratios here. When compared to people in their 20s and 30s, the fatality rate for younger people is many times lower. From the perspective of risk, you’re much better off having younger people do essential business travel, rather than the middle-aged or elderly.”

The CDC recommends that face coverings should be worn when in public.

The CDC is now recommending that people wear either a face mask or a cloth face covering while in public, as many transmitters of the coronavirus are asymptomatic.

As there’s currently a shortage of medical-grade masks available for health professionals, the CDC has recommended that everyday people can instead use any kind of cloth face covering, such as a scarf, cloth face mask, or bandana. The CDC has not recommended using surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as these are considered critical medical supplies.

Dr. Luby offered his opinion on the effectiveness of wearing face masks or face coverings based on his knowledge of previous outbreaks and communicable disease epidemiology.

“In my opinion, it’s reasonable to wear a mask based on two observations. First, in the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong people who wore masks were less likely to get SARS. This is an observational study, it wasn’t randomized, but just as hand-washing was protective, so was mask-wearing,” he said. “This is the same family of viruses. We don’t have very hard evidence, but if you’re wearing a mask, you may not be touching your face as often and you’re thinking about risk. This might change your overall behavior. Due to the behavior cue it gives you, and the observations from the SARS outbreak, I think it would be reasonable, if you have a mask available, to wear it. Masks should be prioritized for health care workers, but there is evidence that suggests the benefit of masks.”

Dr. Luby also continued by saying that now that evidence has emerged stating that transmission can occur with asymptomatic individuals, wearing a mask you already own may prevent spreading the disease.

Bring sanitizing wipes with you to wipe down any areas you come in contact with.

The coronavirus can potentially live for days on various surfaces, including your seat or armrest on a plane, subway train, or vehicle, if they are not sanitized.

Before sitting down or touching any surfaces on any form of public – or even private – transportation, thoroughly wipe down the area with disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray.

After you reach your final destination, some argue it may also be beneficial to remove the clothes you were wearing and wash them before sitting on any surfaces in your home or office. If possible, disinfecting your shoes and leaving them outside, as well as taking a shower when you return home, can also potentially protect you from bringing germs or the virus indoors.

However, Dr. Luby counters this by saying that while hand-washing has shown to be effective in the past, there’s little definitive research on whether measures like these limit your chances of exposure.

“We know that washing hands with water and soap reduces transmission,” he told Business Insider. “Practice cough and sneeze etiquette – sneeze into your sleeve and that will help protect the people around you.”

Wash your hands as soon as you are able to while traveling.

The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health at Northwell Health, told Business Insider that washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from coronavirus and other illnesses.

“That is your main line of defense,” he said. “The main line of transmission is going to be touching surfaces that someone has coughed or sneezed on and then touching your face.”

Dr. Luby also emphasized the importance of washing your hands or using a disinfecting gel or hand sanitizer.

Wear gloves and don’t touch your face.

Wearing gloves while traveling, and changing them frequently, can potentially help protect you from directly coming in contact with harmful germs.

However, if you don’t change them frequently, dispose of them afterward, and nevertheless avoid touching your face, phone, and other frequently touched surfaces, gloves will do little to protect you against the coronavirus.

“The research on whether gloves are useful is pretty speculative,” Dr. Luby said. “If we assume that a surface becomes contaminated, your gloves are just as likely to become contaminated as your hands are.”

However, if wearing gloves subconsciously prevents you from touching your face, they may be beneficial, Dr. Luby explained.

When booking a plane ticket, give the airline your current contact information so you can be reached if someone on your flight has tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to the CDC, because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily.

However, it’s important to practice caution – and think ahead – when traveling by air.

The CDC is recommending that all passengers traveling by airplane give their up-to-date contact information to the airline prior to boarding. By doing so, this ensures that if a passenger on your flight tests positive for coronavirus, you will be notified.

Keep a six-foot distance from other people.

Social distancing is one of the primary defenses listed by the CDC against contracting the coronavirus. Many airlines are currently offering seat distance adjustments that place individuals as far apart from each other as possible.

If your plane happens to have empty seats, asking a flight attendant if it’s alright to move to a seat farther away from others may be a way to increase social distancing and protect yourself from those who have potentially been exposed or contracted the virus.

Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have both updated their policies and released information about how to social distance while flying.

Avoid touching surfaces in public places with your hands – instead, use a tissue or even your sleeve.

Travelers should avoid touching any shared surfaces in public, including but not limited to elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, and more.

The CDC recommends that instead of touching these surfaces with bare hands, travelers should use a disposable tissue or even a sleeve to cover their hands or finger if they must touch something while traveling.

Get your boarding pass on your phone and check-in before arriving at the airport.

Checking in to your flight online and loading your boarding pass onto your phone will allow you to avoid touching the airport kiosk machines or coming into contact with airport employees who would otherwise touch a printed boarding pass.

Pay attention to the people around you.

While many travelers may be accustomed to zoning out while traveling, during these trying times it’s vital to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings and the people around you while traveling.

Be mindful of how many feet away from others you are while traveling. If someone within six feet of you is showing any visible symptoms of illness, try to move away.

For those who may be used to putting in your headphones and zoning out, now couldn’t be a more important time to be aware and mindful of what’s going on around you.

Source: Business Insider

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