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Vacant middle seats on airplanes cut COVID-19 exposure risk by up to 57%, CDC study says

  • Vacant middle seats on airplanes cut COVID-19 exposure risk by up to 57%, CDC study says
    "Research suggests that seating proximity on aircraft is associated with increased risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC researchers wrote. Vacant middle seats on airplanes cut COVID-19 exposure risk by up to 57%, CDC study says
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Based on laboratory modeling of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft, researchers with the CDC and Kansas State University found that exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 was reduced by 23% to 57% in scenarios in which the middle seat was vacant in comparison with full aircraft occupancy.

 

Leaving middle seats open and vacant on airplanes may significantly reduce a passenger’s risk of exposure to the coronavirus, a new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.

Based on laboratory modeling of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft, researchers with the CDC and Kansas State University found that exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 was reduced by 23% to 57% in scenarios in which the middle seat was vacant in comparison with full aircraft occupancy.

"Research suggests that seating proximity on aircraft is associated with increased risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC researchers wrote.

The models used bacteriophage aerosols as a surrogate for airborne SARS-CoV-2 and modeled the relationship between the virus’ exposure and aircraft seating proximity, including full occupancy and vacant middle seat occupancy scenarios.

According to the CDC, this study implies that physical distancing of airplane passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft.

"My colleagues and I have many years of experience in measuring aerosols in the aircraft cabin environment, so the transport behavior was not surprising. We were surprised, however, by the complexity of analyzing seating arrangements in terms of virus exposure," a spokesperson with the CDC told FOX Television Stations.