Updates & A Question Answered


Have you visited the school dashboard yet?

The sample is growing (696 schools, 125,000 in person students as of this email), and we’ll add a second round of data collection this week. I won’t be writing as much about this here, but there are plans for an ongoing series over at Business Insider.

Newsletter Updates

When I started this newsletter in January I imagined writing every other week about new studies on juice or screen time. Obviously, the world changed a lot, and the newsletter along with it. It’s been a tremendous resource for me in terms of outreach, and without it there is no question there would be no grandparent or child care decision framework, no child care data, no school dashboard. I’m really grateful everyone who has been reading and commenting and sharing.

In the last weeks, perhaps with the focus on the school dashboard, I’ve felt an urge to return to something closer to my original plan. My worry is not so much with the lack of juice focus, although I still really, really want to write something on that, but with the feeling that I could be interacting more with my readers. Which was, of course, the whole point.

I’m going to aim for the moment to stick with the two-posts-per-week plan, with one of them being a longer form discussion, either of a new study or of something COVID-related. This week look for that Thursday — evidence on tongue tie.

The second post each week will be question focused. You all send me a lot of questions. So I want to try to answer them. I’m not going to identify people in questions, and I’ll sometimes combine a few into one post, but the idea is to try to be responsive to what you ask (especially since I am sad to find I cannot write back to everyone).

This means please keep sending questions! Either COVID or non-COVID works for me. We’ll start today with a COVID one: Fly, or Drive?

Question of the Week: Fly Or Drive?

We live in Chicago and my in-laws live in Pennsylvania. We have a one year old and they haven’t seen him since March. Everyone is really eager to see each other. We’ve all been pretty careful, but we are trying to figure out how we can visit. Is it safer to fly or drive (it’s a pretty short flight but about an 12 hour drive)? Should we quarantine when we arrive?

There are really two questions here. One is about flying versus driving, the other is about quarantine policies on either end. Let’s take them in turn.

Mode of Transport

From a COVID-19 standpoint, the safest way to do this drive is to put on some adult diapers and drive through 12 hours without stopping. Maybe find a full service gas station on the way so you do not have to get out of the car.

With a one year old this is probably not practical. Actually, this is probably not practical in any situation.

In reality, both flying and driving in this case entail some COVID-19 exposure risks. You could be exposed at the airport, or on the airplane, or in the car to and from the airport. If you drive, you could be exposed at a rest stop or a hotel.

However: with precautions, these risks are all quite small. Although there was a lot of discussion about airplanes early on, we haven’t seen significant outbreaks associated with flying. The air filtration systems in airplane cabins are effective, and people tend to be very careful in airports. If you wear a mask the whole time, keep your child either in a mask or close to you and bring along hand sanitizer, exposure risks are limited.

Similarly, in the driving scenario you can protect yourself fairly easily at a rest stop and we haven’t seen a lot of warnings about hotels.

Exactly which risk is smaller depends somewhat on your precise driving plan, and probably the exact age of your one-year-old. If you can drive through without a hotel, that’s probably the lowest exposure risk. If your one year old is closer to two, and will want to run around the airport touching everyone, that’s probably a bit higher risk than if you can keep them in a carrier attached to you most of the time. But these risks are all really quite small. The decision should probably come down to what you all feel most comfortable with, and what is most convenient.

And I would be remiss not to note that driving is generally a riskier activity than flying, putting aside COVID-19. Again, small risks, but you’re comparing small with small so I wouldn’t ignore this one.


The second part of this question is about quarantine: how much should one “quarantine”, either before the journey or after, before seeing family. The answer here, to me, depends a lot on the medical situation of your family and you. If everyone is healthy, the risks are small, and a significant quarantine may be really unnecessary. In this case, you might consider limiting your non-home activities for a few days before leaving (both you and those you are visiting). Since the journey is low risk, quarantine on the other end may be unnecessary.

If you have someone seriously immune compromised on the other end, that may argue for a longer quarantine on arrival. Although CDC guidelines say 14 days, the majority of cases show up within 5 days, and nearly all within 11.

The alternative to quarantine is testing, which may or may not be available where you are. If you can be tested before you go, or when you arrive, this might alleviate fears. Rhode Island (for example) has routine testing available for people who are traveling, but this is not widespread.

Let me end by saying : I hope you go. I am optimistic about vaccines, but I think it’s unlikely we’d have anything widespread until mid-next year at best. A lot could happen with your family before then and the loneliness and mental health costs are large. It’s not obvious there is going to be a better time.

Weigh in!

Keep the thoughts coming. I cannot write back to everyone but I do read all of your emails, I promise.

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