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Coronavirus safety tips for travel, crowds, commutes, work, and cruises

Coronavirus safety tips for travel, crowds, commutes, work, and cruises
[Photo: Oskar Kadaksoo/Unsplash]

Today’s coronavirus case count is up to 8,235. (If you haven’t yet bookmarked this helpful live map of the outbreak, please do.) Should you get a mask? Is it okay to travel soon? Here’s everything you need to know:

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Yes, it’s still safe to travel. “The risk of acquiring this infection outside of China is remarkably low,” Issac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Toronto, told Vox. “To date, there’s something like [100] international cases, and we can still count the number of people who have acquired this infection without having been to China on one or two hands.” Keep an eye on CDC travel warnings, but you should be fine.

Watch future travel to or through these cities. A new study puts these cities at highest risk of becoming hot spots, because they receive the most travelers from high-risk cities in China. The vast majority are in Asia: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Phuket, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Denpasar, Sydney, Chiang Mai, Melbourne, Los Angeles, and New York. Those at the top of the list receive nearly 10 time more travelers than those at the bottom.

Follow typical flu season precautions. As of this writing, the CDC believes that coronavirus is spread just like common colds and flu, through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. In public buildings or on mass transit, wear winter gloves, and try not to use your bare hands on frequently touched door handles or handlebars. Wash your hands a lot. Don’t touch your face. Otherwise, live your life.

Skip the mask unless you are sick. If you have a respiratory infection, a surgical mask helps prevent spread your illness to others. Otherwise, “wearing a mask walking around isn’t going to do any good, but if you’re in a situation where you’re highly exposed, a mask is helpful,” Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer for Emory University Hospital, told the Washington Post. “You may wear a mask when someone is going to cough directly on you or in a place with a lot of ill people. In a hospital, we wear a mask with patients who have influenza.” In that case, fitted N95 respirators are best, replaced frequently, as they quickly gunk up and become bacteria breeding grounds. But really, there’s no reason to wear a mask for most people.

Sit in a window airplane seat. Research shows that most passengers leave their seat at some point during a flight. In a window seat, you’ll have the least exposure to everyone who walks down the aisle. But even with this reality, you are at low risk, unless you are seated in close proximity to someone ill. The World Health Organization believes that every infected person is infecting 1.4-2.5 people (slightly below the common cold), and chances are, those people won’t be you.

Maybe skip that cruise. Your risk isn’t catching coronavirus. Your risk is that a suspected case will develop on your ship, as is currently happening to 6,000 cruise passengers, who have been stuck on a ship in Italy for days due to a Chinese passenger with a fever—who, according to preliminary tests, likely does not have coronavirus.

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