How to Avoid Coronavirus While Traveling on Planes, Trains, and Buses

“Be conscious of touching your face even after disinfecting these surfaces,” Rasmussen says. And again, when you have the opportunity to, wash your hands.

8. Skip the disposable gloves.

As long as you’re following the other tips on this list, there’s not really a point to wearing disposable gloves in an attempt to avoid getting sick with the new coronavirus while traveling. Surprising, yes. Medical professionals wear gloves when treating patients after all, right? True, but there are a few differences here.

“Gloves provide protection by creating a barrier between hands and a contaminated surface,” says Rasmussen. “That barrier stops working if you are touching your face or eating while wearing gloves.” According to the experts, that kind of slip-up is exactly what’s most likely to happen, because people just don’t typically use gloves correctly.

If you tried to use gloves to protect yourself while traveling on a plane, train, or bus, you’d have to take off the gloves every single time before doing something like touching your face or eating, then put on a new pair of gloves immediately afterward—all without touching any public surfaces with your actual hands, and without touching any part of the old gloves that came into contact with public surfaces. It’s just not realistic for most people, the experts say. “Doctors … are experts at using gloves,” Brown says.

What’s more, the experts note that wearing disposable gloves can cause a false sense of security that might make you more likely to do things like scratch your nose right after touching a door handle in an airport.

Finally, right now, health care workers who actually need and know how to properly use gloves are struggling to find them. The WHO reports that global supplies of gloves are currently strained thanks in no small part to panic-buying. “If you are not a [medical practitioner], then there is no reason why you would wear medical gloves,” Brown says. “Instead, wash your hands frequently with soap and water and avoid touching your face.”

9. Avoid people who are openly coughing or sneezing.

“If you notice someone is coughing or sneezing, you should distance yourself from that person to prevent catching the flu or any other [infectious disease], including COVID-19,” Brown says. The CDC notes that the virus can be transmitted at around six feet, and Brown suggests that staying even farther away if possible is better. After distancing yourself, wash your hands or, in a pinch, apply hand sanitizer.

To be really, really clear: If you choose to do this, it’s about moving away from people exhibiting certain symptoms, not moving away from certain races of people. There’s more public racism and xenophobia toward people of Asian descent than usual, and the fact that this virus was first detected in China is absolutely no excuse for it. With new COVID-19 cases popping up in people of many races across the United States and the world every day, avoiding people based on their race would not only be discriminatory, but also ineffective. (But seriously, it would be inarguably racist, so don’t do it.)

10. Only use face masks in certain circumstances.

Many folks have added surgical masks or N95 respirators to their emergency kits, but the CDC and the WHO have been adamant that these types of tools aren’t necessary for healthy people to prevent getting sick with the new coronavirus. The only people who actually need to use this type of protection right now are those who are sick and those who are taking care of sick people. Unnecessary demand for surgical masks and N95 respirators is causing shortages, leaving people who need them, like health care workers, without these important supplies.

11. Stay on top of your vaccinations.

There is no vaccine available for the new coronavirus, but staying on top of other vaccinations can help keep you as healthy as possible, leaving more resources available for people with COVID-19. Rohde recommends making sure you’re up to date on your flu and measles vaccines in particular. Your immune system will thank you, and the availability of hospital beds and doctors’ appointments will help the community where you live and ones you pass through on your travels.

12. Be patient and comply with health screenings.

So this isn’t exactly something you can do to avoid coronavirus on a plane, train, or bus, but it’s something worth keeping in mind as you travel. Dr. Kimball believes that health screenings at airports and other travel hubs may become more common, and if that’s the case, it’s important for travelers to take it in stride. “People get really aggravated in security lines as it is, and one of the most important things is for travelers to be patient and cooperate and be helpful,” she says. “Everyone’s trying to do their best.”

The situation with coronavirus is evolving rapidly. The advice and information in this story is accurate as of press time, but it’s possible that some data points and recommendations have changed since publication. We encourage readers to stay up to date on news and recommendations for their community by checking with their local public health department.


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