Traveling by Public Transportation? CDC Says Wear a Mask

2 min read

Dec. 20, 2022 -- With a “tripledemic” of flu, RSV and COVID-19 out there, and holiday travel approaching pre-pandemic levels, government and medical officials have a familiar piece of advice for anyone taking public transportation this season.

Wear a mask.

Mandates aren’t expected to be brought back, even as coronavirus cases are ticking up and cases of flu and respiratory syncytial virus are causing problems, The New York Times reported this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends properly wearing a high-quality mask or respirator over the nose and mouth in indoor areas of public transportation (such as airplanes, trains, buses, ferries) and transportation hubs (such as airports, stations and seaports).”

 The Transportation Security Administration says it screened more than 4.5 million travelers over the weekend, almost on par with 2019, the last holiday season before the pandemic.

The Times quoted epidemiologists, infectious disease doctors and air-filtration experts saying that travelers this year “absolutely” should wear masks.

“Even though planes have great filtration systems, you’ll likely be on crowded planes with other travelers for extended periods of time, increasing the chances of exposure,” the Times wrote, citing Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at George Mason University.

‘“Now compound this with rapidly rising numbers of COVID, influenza, R.S.V. and seasonal respiratory viruses,” she said. “I would highly recommend if you’re traveling in a plane, train, bus or boat, you wear a mask.”

A mask blocks the spread of all kinds of germs, not just COVID-19, and it’s “the best tool we have to prevent the spread of those surging respiratory viruses,” including flu and RSV, Popescu said.

Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne transmission of viruses, recommends high-quality masks, such as an N95, KN95 or KF94. “Those are going to be much more effective than a cloth mask or surgical mask,” she said.