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Coronavirus: Why I (Probably) Won’t Wear a Mask While Traveling

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


I have several trips booked during the next two months (including a mileage run stopping in two different European countries). With coronavirus fears spreading around the globe, I debated whether or not to wear to a mask during my travels — especially on airplanes.

Because those surgical masks protect you from coronavirus — right?

According to Dr. David Powell, who serves as medical adviser to International Air Transport Association (IATA), masks and gloves actually are more effective spreading bugs than stopping them.

So what’s the best defense against coronavirus — especially when traveling?

The phrase Corona virus on a banner with blurred Chinese flag on the background.
(©iStock.com/Sinenkiy)

Hands-On Prevention

In an article penned by Bloomberg’s Kyunghee Park, the good doctor says frequent hand washing is the best way to avoid coronavirus.

“The risk of catching a serious viral infection on an aircraft is low,” Dr. Powell says

But isn’t the air inside airline plane cabins all gross and stuff?

Dr. Powell explains that an airliner’s “recirculated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theaters” and “is guaranteed to be 99.97% (or better) free of viruses and other particles. So the risk, if there is one, does not come from the supplied air. It comes from other people.”

A man washes his hands.

He stresses good hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent spreading germs. “Contrary to what people think, the hands are the way that these viruses most efficiently spread,” he notes. “Top of the list is frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, or both. Washing your hands and drying them is the best procedure.

“Avoid touching your face. If you cough or sneeze, it’s important to cover your face with a sleeve…or a tissue to be disposed of carefully, and then sanitizing the hands afterward.”

Masking the Truth?

But masks must be effective for, um, something?

Yes and no.

“There’s very limited evidence of benefit, if any, (to wear masks) in a casual situation,” he says. “Masks are useful for those who are unwell to protect other people from them. But wearing a mask all the time will be ineffective. It will allow viruses to be transmitted around it, through it and worse still, if it becomes moist it will encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria.”

woman with protective mask in an airplane
(©iStock.com/macky_ch)

And forget about gloves. Dr. Powell says they are “probably even worse (than masks), because people put on gloves and then touch everything they would have touched with their hands.”

My Plan

As usual, I’ll bring hand sanitizer and use it fairly liberally everywhere I go. I always sanitize my hands as soon as I exit a plane’s lavatory.


My wife religiously takes a travel set of Clorox wipes to clean everything we could possibly touch on a plane (IFE, arm rests, tray tables, air vents, etc).

I’m also a fan of placing hotel room remote controls into plastic bags I bring or just wrapping them in ice bucket baggies.

I will travel with some disposable masks, however. (In fact, I ordered these today.) In the unfortunate event I become sick, then I’ll wear one.

Are You Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus?

Any extra precautions you’re taking during your travels? Please share them in our below Comments section!

— Chris

Featured image: ©iStock.com/Wako Megumi

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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8 Comments

  1. Good article. I follow your rules AND your wife’s with the Chlorox wipes. People look at me like I’m crazy when I’m wiping down everything at my seat when I first get on. Thanks.

  2. Barry Graham Reply

    When you look at the apparent risks and compare them with the panic messages coming out from governments and the WHO, there is a disconnect, unless there is something we’re not being told.

  3. In addition to placing hotel tv remote in a zip lock, I wear a tinfoil hat too 🙂

  4. I used to religiously use Clorox wipes on planes and in hotel rooms, but I’ve learned they are worthless against anything serious unless applied for a continuous four minutes, which isn’t practical. I’ve taken to using professional, hospital wipes.

    They require gloved application for only two minutes, are way more effective against 30 microorganisms in 2 minutes including the following MDROs, bloodborne pathogens, and viruses: MRSA, VRE, HIV, HBV, HCV, and mention right on the label that they work for coronavirus. I used to only use them in hotels for TV remotes and any surface I would touch, cause I didn’t want people on planes to think I was nuts for applying them with gloves. But now I’m less concerned about what people think and more concerned about catching something.

    Here is the type of gloves.

  5. The only type of mask that is effective against viruses is an N95 mask, not the generic masks that you see most people wearing.

  6. @Larry, thanks for that information. I just ordered the wipes for myself and for my son/daughter-n-law.

  7. Susan, happy to share. Chris & Rene are doing a great job of coming up with timely topics and a forum for us to share information. Safe, happy travels!

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