Coronavirus, Masks & Airplanes

Airplane asile

On my flight home this weekend, there were several people wearing medical masks. At some point during the flight, all of them removed their masks to drink or eat. At first, I thought this was a bit crazy. Why go to the trouble of wearing a mask if you’re going to take it off and breathe airplane air?

When I got home, I called a friend who is an infectious disease specialist. He told me it is possible to contract COVID-19 from an infected surface or object (like a glass our cup on an airplane), but it is far more likely to be spread person-to-person by people you are in close contact with (less than six feet), or if someone coughs or sneezes on (or near) you. Said differently: if you’re sitting next to someone who is infected, you’re at risk.

Counterintuitively, taking your mask off to eat or drink, while a risk if someone coughs or sneezes at that moment, is not anywhere near as dumb as I thought.

This is a little road-warrior intel for those of us who have no choice but to get on several airplanes this week. If you’re wondering, I’m not planning to wear a mask. (Not yet, anyway.) The CDC has a “latest updates” button on its site, and they’ve been keeping it updated daily.


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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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