Risk of catching COVID-19 on planes ‘virtually nonexistent’ when masked: study

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The risk of contracting the coronavirus aboard an airliner is “virtually nonexistent,” as long as passengers wear masks, according to a new study by the Department of Defense.

There is only a 0.003 percent chance that particles from an infected but masked passenger can infiltrate an adjoining flier’s breathing space, ABC News reported, citing the study conducted in partnership with United Airlines.

Using a mannequin equipped with an aerosol generator, 300 tests were conducted in about six months on a United plane, where technicians reproduced breathing and coughing, according to the news outlet.

During each test, 180 million particles were spewed – equivalent to how many would be expelled during thousands of coughs – as the technicians gauged how they traveled in the cabin with a mask on and off.

To recreate a full plane, sensors were placed in seats, galleys and even the jet bridge.

“99.99 percent of those particles left the interior of the aircraft within six minutes,” United rep Josh Earnest told ABC News.

“It indicates that being on board an aircraft is the safest indoor public space, because of the unique configuration inside an aircraft that includes aggressive ventilation, lots of airflow,” he added.

Last month, major US airline chiefs said their employees were reporting lower rates of coronavirus infection than the general public.

“At United, but also at our large competitors, our flight attendants have lower COVID infection rates than the general population, which is one of multiple data points that speaks to the safety on board airplanes,” United CEO Scott Kirby said during a Politico event, according to ABC News.