University of Nebraska Medical Center

Should You Wear a Mask on a Plane This Holiday Season? We Asked the Experts

Conde Naste Traveler

Masks on planes: It’s a topic of conversation that has become more and more convoluted in the past year and change. But in the gauntlet of holiday air travel, one of the most challenging factors for fliers to contend with is avoiding getting sick in overcrowded terminals and jam-packed plane cabins.

The Christmas season is usually when outbreaks of all sorts of nasty bugs and viruses start peaking across the country. As of the first week of December, at least 15 states plus New York City are experiencing high or very high levels of respiratory illness activity, according to data from the CDC. Levels are elevated or increasing across most of the country, the organization says. Illnesses tracked by the CDC include COVID, influenza, and RSV, a virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms for most people, but can be serious for infants or older adults.

“The U.S. is experiencing elevated RSV activity, particularly among young children,” says the CDC’s report. “COVID-19 activity has continued to increase, especially in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Influenza activity continues to increase in most of the country with the southeast and south-central areas of the country reporting the highest levels of activity.”

So with all of those viruses circulating throughout the country—plus the crowds at airports and on board planes—will wearing masks on planes help travelers avoid illness this season?

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