Whether the restrictions on nonessential travel have loosened in your area or you’re now being required to commute to work again, you’re probably wondering how to stay safe when out and about. If your travels include buses, trains and planes, there are a lot of transit-specific precautions and risks to be aware of.
The CDC warns that close contact with an infected person, contact with a surface that holds live virus particles, or being in an enclosed space with an infected person for ten minutes or longer all increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. All of these circumstances are sometimes unavoidable on public transportation. Take the steps below to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Avoid and minimize public transportation if possible. If walking or biking all the way to your destination isn’t an option, still make an effort to replace as much of your route as possible. Walk an extra stop before getting on the train, or try walking to the grocery store and riding the bus home. Drive a personal vehicle or get a ride from someone in your household if you can, but if you can’t then a carpool may be safer than public transit if you’re sure that everyone in the vehicle has been careful.
But what if public transit is a truly unavoidable part of your commute?
Wear a mask, avoid touching your face, and use hand sanitizer frequently. These basic precautions, which protect both you and the people around you, should be second nature by now!
Don’t sit or stand near someone who is visibly sick. Keep this in mind when choosing your seat and monitor the health of others throughout your ride. Don’t be afraid to switch seats or ask for a reassignment from a flight attendant mid transit. If you can’t put a comfortable amount of distance between yourself and the sick passenger, try to stay behind them and out of their sneeze range.
Choose your route, flight or transit option by their pandemic response. Some transit systems are running more frequently on busy routes to reduce ridership on each individual vehicle and make social distancing easier. Most transit systems are cleaning vehicles every night, but some are scheduling cleaning throughout the day too. And some airlines have kept the middle seat empty to reduce passenger contact, while others are back to full flights.
Information regarding these precautions and other relevant information, like passenger occupancy, should be available on your transit website. By doing this research you can modify your route to have the most space and the fewest chances of infection on each ride.
Take advantage of no-contact fare options. This is part of the above tip--you’ll have to research the no-contact options for each potential transit system--but it’s helpful enough to warrant its own paragraph. By paying your fare on a website or app you remove the necessity of touching a high-use, not-cleaned-enough surface like a ticket machine.
Be flexible about the timing of your commute. Travelling during off-peak hours is good advice for anyone looking to avoid a crowd, and is especially useful now. See if you can adjust your work hours to miss the rush, and if you can’t then consider arriving in the neighborhood of your destination early. It’s also a good idea to build extra time into your commute so that you can wait for a second bus if the first is too full. In air travel, this tip recommends early-morning and evening flights, when both the airport and the plane are likely less busy.
Keep belongings off of transit surfaces and use a tissue or other barrier if you need to touch something. The virus that causes COVID-19 can remain active on surfaces for hours or even days. Maintain as little contact as possible between you, your items and public surfaces. Keep your bag in your lap and use a barrier if you need to hold onto something.
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