Please do keep wearing masks when inside most anywhere

Relaxing the masking standards may still not be a wise choice at this time.

This might be behind the NYT paywall but maybe not since it is COVID-related.®i_id=95252703&segment_id=89713&te=1&user_id=65b6b50ee3bd341d0c8528b438d4b8aa

If I’m the only person wearing a mask on a plane or subway train, in a store or at another indoor location, am I really protected from infection?

It’s true that masks work best when everyone around you is wearing one. That’s because when an infected person wears a mask, a large percentage of the infectious particles they exhale are trapped, stopping viral spread at the source. And when fewer viral particles are floating around the room, the masks others are wearing are likely to block those particles that have escaped.

But there is also plenty of evidence showing that masks protect the wearer, even when others around them are mask-free.

The amount of protection depends on the quality of the mask and how well it fits. Health experts recommend using an N95, KN95 or KF94 to protect yourself against the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which is now the dominant version of the coronavirus and is far more infectious than previous strains.

Other variables, such as how much time you are exposed to an infected person and how well a space is ventilated also will affect your risk.

On most planes, for example, the cabin air is frequently pumped through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that are pretty good at reducing virus transmission. But that doesn’t completely eliminate your risk. In a modeling study published in December 2021, researchers found that passengers sitting in the same row or one row away from someone who had Covid-19 still had a high risk of being infected through direct respiratory droplets. Wearing a mask reduced the risk of infection by 54 percent.

In closed settings like a plane, it can be hard to avoid a mixed group of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, symptomatic or asymptomatic people, all of whom may transmit the coronavirus at varying levels. And the flight may not even be the riskiest part of a trip.

This link will work if it's paywalled.

The thing to remember about the high levels of air turnover and filtration in airplanes is that the systems are typicially on when the plane is in the air.  Not necessarily during boarding, the wait to take off, the wait for a gate, or deplaning.

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