A group of Harvard health experts gave airports high marks for taking steps to ensure passenger safety, but stopped short of saying it is safe to fly during the pandemic.
Researchers with the Aviation Public Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health unveiled their second report to reporters on Thursday, saying that a multilayered approach similar to that recommended for schools and offices is in place at airports across the country. That approach, which consists of upgraded ventilation, sanitized surfaces, technology that encourages contactless transactions, as well as the familiar hand hygiene, mask wearing, and physical distancing, can reduce exposure to any virus that travelers may carry.
The researchers said that redoubled personal commitment can provide an added measure of safety for those who must travel. That starts with staying home if you feel ill, being diligent about mask wearing, and stepping back from crowds at unavoidable choke points like boarding gates and baggage claim.
“There are risks of any activity in public spaces. We have found that the aviation industry has been applying its scientific and engineering prowess to explore and implement measures that reduce that risk. … We are not saying that it is safe to fly, but there are risks and actions to reduce those risks,” said Leonard Marcus, lecturer on public health practice at the Chan School and co-director of the School’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. Marcus was joined on a media conference call to launch the report by its other authors, John Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation; Edward Nardell, professor of environmental health and of immunology and infectious diseases; and research associate Wendy Purcell.