by Bob McJannett on
Is there Coronavirus in your car?
Here’s how you can protect yourself from COVID-19.
This year we have all learned the hard way that every time we sneeze or cough, we spray aerosols into the air. Some you can see, some are invisible to the naked eye, while some are small enough that they can float around in the air. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening ONLY when you cough or sneeze. You release aerosols all the time when you’re just talking and breathing normally.
That presents a particular problem for this COVID-19 virus for three reasons:
- Many people have no idea they have it as they are asymptomatic.
- People can shed a high viral load from their throat before they have symptoms.
- There is evidence a lot of asymptomatic transmission is happening.
Outdoors, the shedding of virus during normal talking is not much of a problem, because we can social distance, and the wind dilutes airborne virus quickly. While inside a vehicle, whether you are a Ride Share Driver, Passenger, or carpooling with a group of kids, Social Distancing is not an option.
Typical family car interiors have a volume of about 100 cubic feet, a 10th the size of a bedroom. And we sometimes cram four, or sometimes five, people into that small space. It’s impossible to social distance.
Here’s the problem as it relates to COVID-19 and your vehicle.
Over the years, we’ve done a great job of sealing up our cars. Ever notice how quiet they are on the inside nowadays? That’s because every effort has been made to seal up every gap possible for better acoustics. The result is that the amount of fresh air coming into your car — can be quite low.
This one little change while driving reduces risk
To show what this means for COVID-19 and to give you a simple step to protect yourself and others while in a car, usatoday.com modelled a simple scenario: riding in a car for 72 minutes with an infected passenger who seems fine other than coughing every few minutes.
OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. SARS-CoV-2 (in fine aerosol particles) accumulates in the car cabin when the windows are closed. With each new cough, the concentration builds up with no significant dilution happening. But even cracking one window open just 3 inches can keep this at bay.
So the next time you’re in the car — be it your own vehicle with others or in a taxi, Uber or Lyft — it’s all the same advice: Open up the windows just a bit, even if everyone is feeling fine.
If you’re using your air conditioning or heat and want to keep the windows closed, make sure the car is not in recirculating air mode — select the mode that brings in fresh outdoor air. While using the air conditioner in recirculation mode improves efficiency so the air conditioner works more quickly, it should not be used with others in the car. When looking at instruction manuals and explanations on the websites of automobile manufacturers, most say that fresh air mode should be the default for normal use. Having everyone in the car wear a mask can also help and is a must in a taxi or ride-share vehicle.