Travel Risk Mitigation During a Pandemic
Life Happens. If you’re traveling this season for reasons beyond your control, we have some common sense ways to reduce your risk.
To be clear, we don’t recommend you travel this holiday season, and we’re not public health experts. But sometimes life happens. A close friend of Fix the Mask is driving across the country to take care of his mom while she recovers from heart surgery, and he wanted to know what he can do to decrease his risk of contracting COVID. If you absolutely must travel, here’s what we recommend:
- Set boundaries with your party. the reality is everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to COVID prevention hygiene. We recommend gathering the folks you’re traveling with and putting together a list of what you will and won’t do. Take turns adding the preventative measures that are most important to you, and have everyone sign the list once it’s written. Setting clear expectations is one of the best ways to make sure everyone feels accountable for the safety of the group.
- Don’t eat out. It might be tempting to try jambalaya in NOLA or toasted ravioli in St Louis, but this isn’t the time for touristy indulgences. The CDC reports that people who got COVID were 2x as likely to have dined at restaurants in the weeks prior to their infection than those who did not contract COVID¹. Don’t eat at restaurants, and keep plenty of non-perishable snacks in the car so you don’t have to stop often. If you must indulge in some local delicacies, always order take-out and eat somewhere with safe air.
- Replace your mask regularly. Melt blown fabrics are proven to be an effective filtration medium, but only if they’re electrostatically charged². While staying at home, we tend to stretch our surgical masks over multiple uses to keep from running out, but this can decrease the quality of their filtration (they are, after all, a single use item). Road trips are not the time to test your luck — if you can, change your surgical mask after every use, especially if you’re in close contact with others e.g. while grocery shopping. To our knowledge, there isn’t a surgical mask shortage, so we feel okay making this recommendation. We like Zubrex surgical masks based on our filtration data³. It goes without saying we recommend using these in conjunction with the Essential Mask Brace to make sure you have a secure fit, and this recommendation is backed by data.
- If you want to visit your family/friends, do more than socially distance. Our favorite set up for socially distanced family meals is sitting on opposite sides of a glass door (NOT an acrylic “barrier”; one of us is fully indoors and the other is fully outdoors) and calling each other on speaker phone. This allows us to catch up and eat together without exchanging aerosols. We know we’re lucky to live in California where eating outdoors isn’t uncomfortable, but if this is an option for you we recommend giving it a try. If you have other social distancing tips, share them in the comments below!
- Air out your room before settling in. An overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that COVID is spread by small airborne particles which can linger in the air for hours⁴. With that in mind, one way to reduce risk when you’re staying in a new location is to air out the room prior to sleeping there. COVID straight talk has lots of ventilation hacks. The idea is to replace the stale air in your sleeping quarters with fresh, clean air. If you bring a fan and/or air filter with you on your trip, you’ll have one more layer in your armor against COVID.
- Find a Hand sanitizer you love. You’ll be using it a lot, so get hand sanitizer that you like to use. Driving with the windows up after using ethanol based sanitizer will feel like you’re swimming at the bottom of a shot glass. Our favorite hand sanitizer is the Orange Blossom Honey sanitizer by the Naked Bee. It smells like oranges, and we always look forward to sanitizing once we get back to our cars because we know we’ll be greeted by delicious smells.
Again, we can’t state this enough, we’re not public health experts. But we are engineers that have been reading up on the latest data and are excited to share common sense solutions with all of you. Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season.
The Fix the Mask Team
: Kiva A. Fisher, PhD, et all. 11 September 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6936a5.htm. Accessed 25 September 2020.
 Minute Physics. The Astounding Physics of N95 Masks. 18 June 2020. https://youtu.be/eAdanPfQdCA
 Fix The Mask. Surgical Mask Data. 27 October 2020. https://fixthemask.medium.com/surgical-mask-data-a3f49ea66107
 Airborne Transmission of COVID-19: How it works and how to protect ourselves. 22 October 2020. https://youtu.be/8XF7stFUuxA