Four Factors to Consider in Using Public Transportation During a Pandemic

It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world we live in just a matter of a few weeks and months. The economic and business struggles are already a given. The self-isolation during the height of the quarantine took a toll on many people’s mental and emotional health. Millions had lost their jobs and businesses. Nothing will ever be the same after this global public health crisis.

Another aspect of human life that has been changed dramatically by the pandemic is how people travel. Even the way security in our airports, seaports, train stations, and bus terminals had to be upgraded. In the past, the setting-up of gates, deployment of guards, and the use of spotlights and commercial lighting in dark areas were typical security measures in transport hubs. The use of illumination significantly deterred crime and disorder in these public facilities. Now, due to the threat of the novel coronavirus, security measures had to cover potential threats to public health. It is now very common to see digital infrared scanners at the entrance of every establishment, followed by a contact tracing desk and hand sanitation area. To help promote public health and safety, here are other safety protocols and considerations when using public transportation:

Ventilation in Public Transport

Air ventilation is a crucial factor when assessing the safety of a bus, train, or any other vehicle for public transporation. In airplanes, passengers breathe clean, safe air because of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. Through the HEPA filters, the air inside the cabin is pushed down towards the floor. This air flow pattern prevents water droplets from passenger’s mouths from staying long in surfaces including people’s hands and faces. The result is that there is significantly less chance for people to accidentally or unknowingly make contact with any bacteria or virus-contaminated water droplet. ; The air recirculation system of airplane cabins also ensures that the filter traps unwanted particulates, keeping the cabin air relatively sanitary. This system of air filtering, however, is not available in most buses and trains. While some above-ground ; and subway trains also have air filtering systems installed in each car or section, the sophistication and effectiveness of filtration is not the same as that of a typical passenger airliner.

Choosing Your Seat

Where one sits on a bus, train, or other public transport vehicle is also very relevant to preventing infection and stopping the transmission of the novel coronavirus. The rows of seats, especially when one sits adjacent to other people in a crowded bus or train, is a disadvantage because it increases the risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses transmitted via water droplets. In trains or buses that are crowded and where people are talking without face masks, probability of transmission is much higher.

What Face Mask to Use

Since the presence of water droplets is always higher in public transportation, it is highly recommended to wear face mask since it helps prevent the release of water droplets from one’s mouth when speaking; and it protects the user of the mask from breathing in or coming into contact water droplets from other people. It also filters other particulates, allergens, and contaminants in the air. A typical surgical or medical mask is a good option as long as it is used only once and carefully thrown in a bin after use. It is also important to use the strings that are attached to the ear as the main contact point. One’s fingers or hand must not touch the actual surface of the mask where contaminants are trapped during use.

The N95 mask offers more protection compared to the typical surgical mask. In fact, it can block at least 95 percent of all particles. Some models of the N95 have one-way valves that allow the wearer to breathe easier. Some cloth masks can also be worn but those do not provide the same level of protection as that of a surgical mask or the N95 model.

Facts About Using a Face Shield

Of late, many people have been using face shields as a replacement for the face mask. The plastic transparent material of the face shield is propped on a hard plastic two-legged frame similar to a pair of glasses. The main advantage of the face shield is that it does not obstruct breathing and since it is transparent, people can still the whole face of the wearer. However, recent studies show that a person wearing a face shield can still spread water droplets into smaller vapors in the inside surface of the shield. Later on any bacteria or virus on the surface can still escape or spread to the open sides and proliferate on the front surface of the shield. It is, therefore, still recommended to use a mask even when one uses a face shield.

Personal Safety and Sanitation is Everybody’s Responsibility

person putting hand sanitizer

While there is no 100 percent guarantee of not being infected even if a person follows all the above-mentioned protocols, taking precautions is a must for everyone. The only way to really contain the spread of the virus is for people to be mindful of their own health and even consider themselves to be potential carries of the novel coronavirus. Whether using a private car or taking a public transport vehicle, people need to observe physical distancing, strive to be healthy by getting good sleep, and eating healthy food.

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