COVID-19

CDC: Vacant middle seats on flights reduce COVID exposure risk

Samantha Fields Apr 19, 2021
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This late in the pandemic, though, this data might not make a whole lot of difference when it comes to airlines' policies. Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

CDC: Vacant middle seats on flights reduce COVID exposure risk

Samantha Fields Apr 19, 2021
Heard on:
This late in the pandemic, though, this data might not make a whole lot of difference when it comes to airlines' policies. Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Blocking off middle seats on airplanes can significantly reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At this point, however, nearly all major domestic airlines have stopped blocking middle seats.

We’ve all known for a while now that wearing masks and social distancing are two of the best ways to prevent COVID from spreading. Turns out the same is true on airlines. “Distancing can have a significant protective effect,” said James Bennett, a research engineer at the CDC who worked on the study.

Bennett explained just how much a difference it makes when airlines block middle seats varies.

“At the low end, we were looking at a 23% reduction in exposure, just from the fact of not being seated right next to another passenger if they happen to be infectious,” he said. At the high end, it’s a 57% reduction in exposure.

But, for airlines, at this point in the pandemic, “I don’t imagine this is gonna make a whole heck of a lot of difference,” said aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia. “The airlines have been really diligent at enforcing mandatory mask policies. It’s been a really effective tool.”

And, as vaccination rates rise, more and more people are feeling comfortable booking flights, Aboulafia said.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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