Don’t Meet COVID-19 on Your Way to Work

Commuting is enough of a hassle. Don’t let COVID-19 make it worse.

Sam Johnston
Women standing on subway, wearing a mask

Commuting is hard enough, as you navigate traffic, public transportation, and perilous intersections, all while trying to get your morning caffeine into your system before you reach your workplace. Now workers have to do all that while avoiding exposure to COVID-19.

Public transportation is safer than you think — if you take precautions.

If you’re one of the 80-plus percent of Americans who walk, bicycle, or drive alone to work, you have almost no chance of catching COVID-19 during your commute. If you use public transportation, your risks are higher, since you’re in confined indoor spaces with other people. However, studies that were done while masks were required suggest that you can use public transportation safely, even during a surge, as long as you take a few common-sense precautions.

How to make your commute a little safer.

If you take a bus or train to get to work, here are a few tactics you can use to make the trip a little safer. If you carpool, there’s a hint for you here, too.

  1. Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask, like a KN95, KF94, or N95. Project N95 is a nonprofit organization that checks all of the masks it sells for quality.

  2. Avoid crowds. Look for a less-crowded train car or bus. The fewer people, the less likely someone else in the car is infected.

  3. Open the windows. Research on school buses showed that having at least two windows open in both the front and the back of the bus helped bring fresh air into and  through the vehicle. More open windows brought in more air. In a car, open windows diagonally across from one another to get the best airflow.

  4. Take the window seat. Scientists at IBM found that bus passengers were more likely to be exposed to moisture exhaled by other passengers when they sat in aisle seats. Folks in the window seats got less exposure.

  5. Spend less time indoors. If the bus you take has an outdoor seating area, take advantage of it. Outdoors is always safer than indoors, COVID-19-wise.

Finally, remember that the longer you’re indoors with someone who has COVID-19, the more likely it is that you’ll get infected. So make your time on public transportation as short as you can. You might even want to consider getting off a stop early and walking the rest of the way — it’s good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles, and your mental health — and it will decrease your risk of getting COVID-19, too.