Should I Mask? Can I Travel? What About Hugs? How Delta Is Changing Advice for the Vaccinated


Most experts say that they use a high-quality medical mask, like an N95 or KF94, when they fly. If you don’t have one, double masking is advised. For a vaccinated person, the risk of removing a mask briefly to eat or drink during a flight is low, but it’s better to keep it on as much as possible. The C.D.C. says it’s best for unvaccinated people, including children, to avoid flying.

Dr. Bromage said he recently traveled by air and took his mask off briefly to drink a beverage, but kept it on for most of the flight. He said he would be more comfortable removing his mask to eat if he knew the people next to him were vaccinated. He said he would be more concerned if the person next to him didn’t seem to care about Covid precautions or wore the mask under the nose. “If you’ve got a random person next to you, especially a chatty person, I’d keep the mask on,” he said.

Most buses, trains and subways still require everyone to wear a mask, which lowers risk. While vaccinated people are well protected, the risk of viral exposure increases the longer the ride and the more crowded the train car or bus. For many people, riding public transit is essential for getting to work or school, and wearing a well-fitted medical mask or double mask is recommended. When public transit is optional, the decision about whether to ride should factor in local vaccination rates and whether case counts are rising.

While it’s generally considered safe for vaccinated people to hug and spend time together unmasked, parents of unvaccinated children have more risks to consider, particularly when visiting older relatives. In communities with low case counts and high vaccination rates, it’s generally considered safe for unvaccinated children from a single household to spend time with vaccinated grandparents. But as the Delta variant spreads and children return to school, the risks of close contact also increase for older or immune-compromised people who are more vulnerable to complications from Covid-19, even if they’re vaccinated.

When families plan a visit to a high-risk relative, it’s a good idea to minimize other exposures, avoiding restaurant dining or working out at the gym in the week leading up to the visit. Even though the risk of a vaccinated person spreading Covid-19 remains low, vaccinated grandparents should also reduce their personal exposure when they spend time with unvaccinated children.

“I have not been masking up indoors with my octogenarian parents at this point, because I am still very careful in the way I wear masks in public settings,” Dr. Huffman, the aerosol scientist, said. “But if I had more interactions that increased my overall risk of exposure, I would strongly consider masking up when indoors with vulnerable individuals.”

Rapid home tests are an added precaution when visiting grandparents or an immune-compromised family member. Take a test a few days before the visit as well as the day of the visit. You can learn more about home testing here.



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