CDC has found recently that keeping the middle seat empty on planes lessens the risk of COVID-19 exposure by 23% to 57%. This information is based upon a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC ’s study, came out exactly when U.S. airlines were abandoning many pandemic practices like not selling the middle seat. Delta, the airline still holding on to those restrictions have also said it has plans to unblock its middle seats by May.
To make this study happen, CDC researchers used another and rather a different virus, (the bacteriophage MS2 virus) as a “surrogate” for COVID-19. Then they seated someone who had COVID-19 two seats away from others, as well as a full simulated cabin of 120 seats.
The study, however, focused on exposure to the virus, and not transmission.
CDC wrote in their study that based on a data-driven model, physical distancing, such as keeping middle seats empty, could reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft. The extent to which exposure reduction might decrease transmission risk is not yet known.
CDC also asserted that masks are more effective at reducing fomite and droplet exposures than aerosol exposures and so their impact was not considered in the aerosol analysis since.
Airlines for America reacted to this CDC’s statement and mentioned that several major U.S. carriers have implemented multiple layers of measures such as pre-flight health-acknowledgement forms, mask-wearing, and disinfection protocols to keep travellers safe.
They also added that according to multiple scientific studies these layers of protection expressively reduce risk, that researchers have proven that the risk of transmission on board is very low.
Ed Bastian, Delta CEO said the same thing to CDC ’s study and added that their experts have informed them that with vaccination it’s safe to sit in that middle seat.