This Is "One of the Highest-Risk Interactions," Disease Expert Warns
Try to avoid doing this whenever possible—or at least ask for some fresh air.
With the country now in the dog days of summer, finding respite in cool, indoor spaces has become a priority almost as pressing as keeping safe from the coronavirus. But with COVID-19 still very much a threat in the United States, medical experts have expressed concern over the dangers of being in confined spaces—especially ones with poor ventilation—as these environments increase the risk of spreading it. That makes car sharing one of the riskiest things to do amid COVID.
Most recently, this was supported by a study of flu transmission published in July in the journal PLOS Pathogens. The study found that aerosols were an "an important mode of influenza virus transmission," particularly in closed spaces with lower ventilation rates. The findings are indicative that the same thing is likely true of COVID-19, as it is caused by a respiratory virus similar to the flu. What's more, the study found that that infection rates dropped when ventilation improved. Therefore, ventilation concerns make road trips a dangerous move.
"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 on July 31.
To Bromage's point, riding in a car with someone makes it next to impossible to maintain six feet of distance, and if the air filter in the vehicle isn't as functional as it should be, the car becomes ripe for potential aerosol transmission. If you can't avoid a situation where you have to share a car, Bromage recommends at least taking one simple safety precaution. "In cars and ride sharing, we want the windows open," he said. "It makes things safer."
Speaking to ABC News, James Malley, Jr. PhD, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire, echoed Bromage's advice when asked about the best ways to prevent spreading the virus. "A lot of common sense things like increasing fresh air, not having a lot of people in an enclosed space, wearing masks," he said. "That all makes a difference." And for another factor that can make you more vulnerable to infection, check out You're Twice as Likely to Catch COVID If You're This Height, Research Says.