Dr. Fauci Says He Does This Every Time He Rides in a Car Amid COVID

If avoiding small, confined spaces is the key to staying safe, you should follow his lead in the car.

If medical experts have made one thing clear by this point in the coronavirus pandemic, it's that confined indoor spaces with poor circulation are a risky proposition. That's why we've all been urged to avoid bars, crowded restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms. But there's one claustrophobic space that's hard to avoid: cars. So, how can you make your vehicle, your friend's car, or a ride share safe? Anthony Fauci, MD, says he makes sure to do one thing every time he rides in a car: Crack open the windows.

During a Facebook Live chat with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Fauci discussed the unique problem that sharing vehicles with unfamiliar drivers presents during the pandemic. "When I'm in a car now, I keep the window open," he told Raimondo. "Even though the person who's driving the car and me both have masks on, I keep the masks on and keep the windows open."

Man wearing mask in car

Multiple experts have noted that rolling your windows down is key in any car ride with someone outside of your household amid coronavirus. "Sharing a car is one of the highest-risk interactions I have had to look at in my life," Erin Bromage, PhD, a biology professor who researches infectious diseases at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, told Good Morning America recently.

"In cars and ride sharing, we want the windows open," he said. "It makes things safer."

In USA Today, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Joseph Allen and Jack Spegler and Portland State University's Richard Corsi also warned that "when the windows are closed, SARS-CoV-2 (in fine aerosol particles that cause COVID-19) accumulates in the car cabin. With each new cough, the concentration builds up with no significant dilution happening. But even cracking one window open just 3 inches can keep this at bay."

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released recommendations for riding in cars during the pandemic. Besides sitting in the back seat in a cab or ride share, the agency also suggests going one step further and turning off the air recycler. "Avoid using the recirculated air option for the car's ventilation," the agency notes.

They add that you should instead "use the car's vents to bring in fresh outside air and/or lower the vehicle windows." This will bring in fresh air from outdoors instead of recycling the same potentially contaminated air around the tight space. And for more on how to stay safe behind the wheel, check out 7 Mistakes You're Making Every Time You Get in Your Car.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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