People struggling with poor mental health, substance abuse issues, or both are being hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Drug and alcohol use has spiked due to the stress and anxiety from isolation, so it begs the question, “Is it safe to fly by plane to addiction treatment during COVID-19?”
There’s no avoiding the fact that everyone, all over the world, is affected in some form or fashion by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Here in the United States, flare-ups continue to make it difficult for schools to reopen and for people to go to work. Even more despairing is the impossibility for many people to spend in-person time with friends or family.
In a very real way, the pandemic-induced isolation is taking a toll on America’s wellbeing.
The advice from top infectious disease experts is to stay at home if possible and only go out for essential errands or supplies. Those who need help the most are, understandably, scared of contracting or spreading COVID-19.
The good news, however, is that addiction treatment centers are considered essential businesses. Many are open for new patients and must apply a strict standard of COVID-19 best practices to keep people safe and healthy.
Additionally, there’s now evidence that the chances of catching COVID-19 on airline flights may be less risky than previously thought, which is a positive for those who need to travel to get to treatment.
Pandemic and Public Health Declines
In June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 40 percent of adults in the U.S. admitted to struggling with substance abuse or poor mental health because of the isolation associated with the pandemic.
Younger Americans, as well as “essential workers,” people of color, and those taking care of sick loved ones account for the largest increase in substance abuse, depression and even suicidal ideation.
Making matters worse is an 18 percent spike in drug overdoses and drug-related fatalities.
“Overdose clusters have shifted from traditional centralized urban locations to adjacent and surrounding suburban and rural areas,” Aliese Alter, a program manager for the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, told NPR News.
This trend has experts worried because, according to CDC data, overdose deaths already rose by 5 percent in 2019, killing an estimated 72,000 people.
As the stress of quarantine lingers, people dealing with untreated mental health issues or substance use addiction need to understand that there is help available in a safe environment.
As it turns out, if you or someone you know needs to take a flight to receive that treatment, new research found the likelihood of catching the coronavirus on an airplane is actually lower than most people think.
Is Flying Safe During COVID-19?
Like every other business, airlines have struggled to keep enough customers this year. In response to the loss of business, as well as keeping air-travel viable during a pandemic, carriers have put measures in place so that people can travel as safely as possible.
Some of the reasons catching COVID-19 on a short flight is unlikely include:
- It’s mandatory to use face masks for the duration of flights
- Cabin air is recycled approximately every 2 to 3 minutes
- Air filters on airplanes are designed to trap 99.9 percent of particles
- Many airlines limit seating to no passengers allowed in the middle seat
Additionally, Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at MIT examined available data and found that the chances of catching COVID-19 on a full flight, with everyone wearing masks was just 1 in 4,300, as reported in Fast Company.
The risk actually decreases to 1 in 7,700 if there is no passenger in the middle seat. His calculations were based on flights that are two hours or less.
“There are various things that can be done to take the risk, which is small, and make it even smaller,” Barnett told CNN. He suggested wearing a face shield, in addition to a mask, would provide even greater protection.
Why Now Is a Good Time To Go To Addiction Treatment
With much of “business as usual” out the window in the U.S. right now, some people are taking the opportunity to get professional treatment in a medically safe facility.
In an uncertain economic time like this, people fear losing their jobs, but federal law prohibits employers from firing employees on medical leave. Some treatment centers even help patients get medical leave.
Everyone is able to get a medical leave, and many treatment centers will help them do that. In addition, the very nature of their medical leave can be kept private.
Yet another reason now is a good time to seek help is COVID-19 regulations in many cities still require public places and businesses to be closed. Since there isn’t much to do other than stay home, it makes the fear of missing out (FOMO) on life less intense.
There is also the added benefit that some treatment centers will have fewer patients, making it even safer to spend time in recovery as the pandemic plays out.
For people having a difficult time with drug or alcohol use right now, it may have been a long time coming, or the extra stress of quarantine may have taken its toll. But getting professional treatment for addiction is always the right decision, and now that it’s safe to fly, it might be the perfect time.
We believe trust, meaningful connections, and kindness are the essentials to beginning a journey in recovery. We are dedicated to providing an honest, authentic, and genuine treatment environment that gives our clients a unique opportunity for healing.