Taking a Road Trip? Here’s Your Checklist

This article has not been edited and the article was originally published on The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/planning-a-road-trip-in-a-pandemic-11-tips-for-before-you-leave-on-the-road-and-when-you-arrive-149620

Planning a road trip in a pandemic? 11 tips for before you leave, on the road and when you arrive
November 26, 2020

Author – Thea van de Mortel
Professor, Nursing and Deputy Head (Learning & Teaching), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University

As restrictions ease around the country and the prospect of travel beckons, many of us will be planning road trips for the holiday season.

To ensure your trip is memorable in the best rather than the worst way, here are some things you and your fellow travellers can do to reduce the risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, COVID on your trip.

Before you go

  1. Check for any travel or other COVID-specific restrictions or rules in the areas you will be travelling through or to, before you go. These can change rapidly and may include restrictions on how far you can travel, how many people per square metre are allowed in public spaces, and whether you need border passes or to wear a mask. Each state or territory has its own health department or government COVID website you can check.
  2. Don’t take COVID with you. If anyone in your group has COVID-like symptoms, however mild, it is important to be tested and cleared for COVID before leaving. Common symptoms may include fever or chills, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, and vomiting or diarrhoea.
  3. Pack masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser. The two most likely ways of catching COVID are inhaling viral particles an infected person sheds when they cough, sneeze, laugh, talk or breathe; and ingesting particles by touching contaminated objects and then touching your face or food. Masks (and social distancing) can help reduce the former risk, while avoiding touching your face, frequent hand hygiene and cleaning surfaces can reduce the latter. So pack masks, wipes and hand sanitiser. Hand sanitiser should contain at least 60% alcohol.
  4. Pack your own pillows and linen. We know people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, can shed virus onto linen and pillows (and other surfaces), even when asymptomatic. We also know respiratory viruses can penetrate pillow covers and get into the microfibre stuffing. So you might want to consider bringing your own pillows and linen.

On your trip

  1. Use disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch surfaces in your hire car. These would include door and window handles or buttons, light switches, seat adjuster controls, radio controls, the steering wheel, glove box button, gear/drive and handbrake levers, rear-view mirrors and mirror controls.
  2. How about singing in the car? The more vigorous the activity, the greater the opportunity to release droplets and aerosols and the further these will travel. So, laughing and singing will release more of these than talking, and talking will release more than breathing. However, if you are travelling in a family group, or with your housemates, then you have been in close contact with one another at home and the additional risk would be low.
  3. Maintain social distancing at service stations. Leave at least 1.5 metres between you and the next person while paying for fuel, ordering food and when using the bathroom. Make sure you wash or sanitise your hands after touching surfaces such as petrol pumps, door handles, bathroom taps, and before getting back in your car.
    Filling car up with petrol at service station
    Wash or sanitise your hands after using the petrol pump. Shutterstock
  4. Pay with cards rather than cash to avoid touching money. Many people can handle bills and coins over a long duration of time, providing many opportunities to transfer disease-causing microbes from one person to the next. Using contactless payment also helps maintain social distancing.
  5. It’s safer to eat outdoors than indoors if stopping for a snack or lunch. That’s because large volumes of air dilute the density of viral particles in the air. Evidence from a study of COVID clusters in Japan suggests the chance of transmitting COVID is more than 18 times higher inside than outside.

When you arrive

  1. Is your hotel or rented accommodation COVID-safe? Ask the accommodation provider what steps they have taken to make the place less conducive to spreading COVID. For example, have they introduced extra cleaning or disinfection?
  2. Use disinfectant wipes in rented accommodation to clean high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, cupboard handles, taps and toilet flush buttons. You can also put dishes and cutlery through the dishwasher on a hot cycle. This is because the virus can remain viable (able to cause infection) on surfaces for many days.

Following these simple steps can help to keep your trip memorable in the best possible way. Happy holidays!

Copyright © 2010–2020, The Conversation US, Inc.

What a smoky bar can teach us about the ‘6-foot rule’ during the COVID-19 pandemic

How smoke moves inside a bar or outside in fresh air can help in visualizing how the coronavirus spreads. Shironosova/Getty Images Plus

Byron Erath, Clarkson University; Andrea Ferro, Clarkson University; Goodarz Ahmadi, Clarkson University, and Suresh Dhaniyala, Clarkson University

When people envision social distancing, they typically think about the “6-foot rule.”

It’s true that staying 6 feet from other people can reduce the chance of a coronavirus-laden respiratory droplet landing in your eyes, nose or mouth when someone coughs. Most of these droplets are too tiny to see, and people are expelling them into the air all the time – when they shout, talk or even just breathe.

But the 6-foot rule doesn’t account for all risks, particularly indoors.

Think about walking into a room where someone is smoking a cigarette. The closer you are to the cigarette, the stronger the smell – and the more smoke you’re inhaling. That smoke also lingers in the air. Over time, it won’t matter where you are in the room; the smoke will be everywhere.

Cigarette smoke comprises particles that are similar in size to the smaller respiratory droplets expelled by humans – the ones that linger in the air the longest. While it’s not a perfect analogy, picturing how cigarette smoke moves through different environments, both indoors and outdoors, can help in visualizing how virus-laden droplets circulate in the air.

As professors who study fluid dynamics and aerosols, we have been exploring how COVID-19 circulates and the risks it creates. The 6-foot rule is a good benchmark that’s easy to remember, but it’s important to understand its limitations.

Aerosols and an 86-year-old rule

The 6-foot rule goes back to a paper published in 1934 by William F. Wells, who was studying how tuberculosis spreads. Wells estimated that small respiratory droplets evaporate quickly, while large ones rapidly fall to the ground, following a ballistic-like trajectory. He found that the farthest any droplets traveled before either settling or evaporating was about 6 feet.

While that distance can reduce exposure, it does not provide a complete picture of infection risk from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

When people exhale, they expel respiratory droplets with a wide range of sizes. Most are smaller than 10 microns in diameter. These can quickly decrease to approximately 40% of their original diameter, or smaller, due to evaporation.

The droplets will not completely evaporate, however. This is because they consist of both water and organic matter, potentially including the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These tiny droplets stay suspended in the air for minutes to hours, posing a risk to anyone who comes into contact with them. When suspended in the air, these droplets are commonly referred to as aerosols.

Indoors or outdoors: Ventilation matters

Infection risk is highest right next to a person who has the virus and decreases with distance. However, the way respiratory droplets mix in the air and the resulting concentration influence the distance needed to safely avoid exposure.

Outdoors, the combination of physical distancing and face coverings provides excellent protection against virus transmission. Think again of being near a smoker. Smoke can be carried by the wind much farther than 6 feet, but high concentrations of smoke do not usually build up outdoors because the smoke is quickly diluted by the large volume of air. A highly effective strategy to avoid breathing smoke is to avoid being directly downwind of the smoker. This is also true for respiratory droplets.

Indoors, the picture is very different.

Very light room air currents from fans and ventilation units can transport respiratory droplets over distances much greater than 6 feet. However, unlike being outdoors, most indoor spaces have poor ventilation. That allows the concentration of small airborne respiratory droplets to build up over time, reaching all corners of a room.

When indoors, the infection risk depends on variables such as the number of people in the room, the size of the room and the ventilation rate. Speaking loudly, yelling or singing can also generate much larger concentrations of droplets, greatly increasing the associated infection risk.

It’s not surprising that most “superspreader” events that have infected large numbers of people involved indoor gatherings, including business conferences, crowded bars, a funeral and choir practice.

Strategies for staying safe

In pre-COVID-19 times, few people worried about respiratory infection from small virus-laden droplets accumulating indoors because their virus load was usually too low to cause an infection.

With SARS-CoV-2, the situation is different. Studies have shown that COVID-19-positive patients, even those who are asymptomatic, carry a high load of the virus in their oral fluids. When airborne droplets emitted by these patients during conversation, singing and so on are inhaled, respiratory infection is possible.

There is no safe distance in a poorly ventilated room, unfortunately. Good ventilation and filtration strategies that bring in fresh air are critical to reduce aerosol concentration levels, just as opening windows can clear out a smoke-filled room.

In addition, masks or face coverings should be worn at all times in public indoor environments. They both reduce the concentration of respiratory droplets being expelled into the room and provide some protection against inhaling infectious aerosols.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

Finally, because the risk of infection increases with exposure time, limiting the amount of time spent inside public spaces is also important.

The 6-foot social distancing guideline is a critical tool for combating the spread of COVID-19. However, as more activities move indoors with the arrival of cooler weather this fall, implementing safeguards, including those you might use to avoid inhaling cigarette smoke, will be essential.

Byron Erath, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Clarkson University; Andrea Ferro, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Clarkson University; Goodarz Ahmadi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Clarkson University, and Suresh Dhaniyala, Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, Clarkson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.