I'm a Doctor and Warn You'll Catch COVID Here
I'm sure you, just like me, really miss life "BC"—before coronavirus!
All the things we took for granted—like popping out to the shops, going to the cinema, the theatre, or to see a concert. We looked forward to Saturday night out with friends, parties, weddings, and for me—it was going dancing. Now this miserable virus has taken the fun out of life.
It's all about lowering the risk. And that means staying away from other people, avoiding crowds, and just breathing in and out in your own personal space. When you read on you will see, this is not just about you—it's about you becoming a potential vector for spreading the infection to other people. Surely none of us wants to do that.
So here is my list of places where you are most likely to catch COVID. As a doctor, and as a human, I'm personally avoiding all these places, and so are my family and friends. If you want to take the risk, think what you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible. Read on to learn why, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Restaurants and Bars
Do you really need to eat out, or visit a bar or a coffee shop?
- The CDC recently published a study in which they compared 154 people who had tested positive to COVID-19, to 160 controls, who had had similar symptoms but tested negative.
- Those who were COVID positive were twice as likely to have eaten out in restaurants in the 14 days before their positive test result, than those who tested negative.
- 42% of those who tested positive had been in contact with someone positive for COVID-19 within the 14 days of having their own test, compared to 14% of those who tested negative.
- In the COVID positive group, when the authors excluded those who had a known positive COVID contact, the remainder were almost three times more likely to have visited a restaurant, and nearly four times more likely to have visited a bar or a coffee shop, in the 14 days before taking the test.
What does this study tell us?
If you have been in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, stay at home for 14 days. Places where it's hard to socially distance, or where you have to remove your mask, breathe circulated air, or share the restroom facilities, are high risk for transmission. If you want to take the risk, sit outside, keep your distance, and check the restaurant staff will be wearing masks.
Theme Parks, Amusement Parks, Travelling Fairs and Carnivals
Just how badly do you need that ride on a rollercoaster?
It may be tempting to plan a day out to have some fun, but in an amusement park, you and your family are in close proximity to large crowds of people who are not from your own household.
The CDC has issued guidance to park operators, and if all the infection control measures are in place, these are regarded as moderate risk. In parks where these measures are absent, the risk is high, or very high.
Large theme parks such as Disneyland have put strict hygiene procedures in place, and to date have had no reported outbreaks of infection. Reassuring, yes indeed, but this doesn't mean it hasn't happened—it just means so far it has not been proven or reported.
The risk may be higher If you visit smaller amusement parks, funfairs, or carnivals. The problems relate to difficulty maintaining social distancing, having to stand in a queue, mask-wearing may not always be enforced, it may be difficult to regularly access handwashing, you will need to share the restrooms, and, of course, you need to touch and hold on to different parts of machinery/equipment.
Attending Major Sports Events
How much do you really need to attend that football game?
Sporting events remain high-risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Recently, 28 people tested positive to COVID-19 after attending a soccer match on 30th August, at Burnside Football Club, Houghton, UK. After this, a further 83 people also tested positive. The club apologized profusely and admitted the precaution put in place were not strict enough.
In the UK, Reading University recently published a study undertaken by sports economists. The authors reported that in the six weeks before the suspension of sports matches in March 2020, attendance at soccer matches played by the soccer teams in the top 8 divisions, resulted in higher numbers of COVID-19 infections, in the geographical areas where the gamed were played. This was despite the fact many stadiums were half empty as people were already concerned about the virus.
They suggested attending sport events is high-risk for transmission as people need to queue, mix in the bar and fast-food areas, share public toilets. Also, people often travel long distances to attend these matches, often on public transport.
It's surely safer to stay at home and watch the game on TV!
If you do decide to go to a sports event, follow the CDC advice to minimize your risk.
Attending a Funeral
Might there be a safe way to honor a love one's passing?
In April, 16 cases of COVID-19 were traced to attendance at a funeral. The deceased person had not died of COVID-19. The index patient, patient A, a close family friend had traveled out of state to attend, with mild respiratory symptoms, but unaware of the infection, and was only tested as part of the current investigation.
The night before the funeral, he had shared take out food with two other family members, lasting about three hours. Both these family members subsequently tested positive, one of them required hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, and died. Some of the other attendees at the funeral then also became infected.
Patient A, still initially unaware of the diagnosis, attended a birthday party a few days after the funeral, where another seven people became infected. Two of these were admitted to hospital, ventilated, and died. Others who became infected included two people who gave personal care to some of these patients, including one health care professional.
Attending a Wedding
How much do you really need to go to that wedding?
An outbreak of 76 cases of COVID-19 was traced to attendance at a wedding in Jordan.
The suspected index case was the bride's father, a 58-year old who had arrived 4 days before the wedding by plane from Spain, where infection rates were high. He had started to have symptoms—fever, cough, and runny nose—two days before the wedding. The wedding lasted two hours and was attended by around 360 people at an indoor venue. By 4 weeks after the wedding, 86 people, either who had either been at the wedding or were close contacts, had tested positive. 76 (89.6%) of these had been at the wedding. One of these was pregnant but had a healthy delivery and the baby tested negative. One was an 80-year old with breast cancer who died.
In Jordan, physical contact at weddings is traditional, with much kissing, hugging, and hand-holding—all of which facilitates the spread of the virus. The bridal party, including the parents, usually from a line and greets each guest individually. Much of the event is face to face and often involves close physical contact during the celebrations, such as dancing.
Among those who tested positive, 40 (52.6%) had symptoms, and 36 (47.4%) had no symptoms. Thus, nearly half of those who tested positive were asymptomatic and were only tested as part of the study.
Visiting a Care Home
Do you really need to put your relative or friend at risk?
A recent study in The Lancet reported the findings of an investigation into six care homes in the UK which had reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic. These care homes had already reported a large number of deaths, for example, there had been 29 deaths in one of these care homes before the study began.
Residents and staff were tested and followed up for a 14-day period. Overall, 39.8% of residents and 20.9% of staff tested positive to COVID-19. Three-quarters of these were asymptomatic at the time of testing and half remained asymptomatic for the rest of the study period. The study highlighted the fact that large numbers of asymptomatic staff and residents act as reservoirs for infection. The authors stressed the need for both residents and staff to be regularly tested, with strict infection control measures for any visitors.
The CDC has issued recommendations for care homes. If you plan to visit a care home, take care to:
- Only attend in person if you really need to. Video calls are a good alternative.
- Do not attend if you have any symptoms or have been in contact with the virus in the past 14 days.
- Check-in at the front desk so you can have your temperature measured and answer the relevant questions.
- Wash your hands before you visit, use hand sanitizer regularly, maintain your distance, and wear a mask at all times.
- Difficult though it is—avoid physical contact with your loved one.
- If you have symptoms within 14 days of your visit, notify the care home immediately.
Work From Home—Avoid the Office
Do you really need to go into the office, or can you work from home?
Sixty-five clusters of office-outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in 10 EU countries (ECDC 2020). The different offices included banks, government offices, company offices and call centers. Numbers of cases ranged from 2 to 23. From these reports, a total of 410 people became infected with 4 deaths, and a link was noted to further community transmission.
One of the main risk factors for spreading COVID-19 is sharing the same space and participation in meetings.
Being in a confined space facilitates transmission of infection via both inhaled respiratory droplets and aerosol transmission. It can be difficult to keep 6-feet apart in a shared space. You also need to share the coffee room, canteen, toilets, and locker rooms.
There is also the need to journey to work, often by public transport.
Office workers may be fearful of admitting they have symptoms, as they may not be able to afford to be off work or risk losing their job.
Infections spread very quickly in the office environment. In one 2014 study, the investigators introduced a harmless virus to an office, by inoculating it onto a doorknob and a tabletop. Within 2-4 hours, the virus was detected on 40-60% of workers in the office and at most common sites such as the coffee pot, the door handles, the light switches, phones, and computers!
Do you really need to go to the office, or can you work just as efficiently from home?
The CDC has issued extensive guidance for employers and employees about minimizing the risk of COVID-19 at work.
Final Thoughts from the Doctor
Now that winter is coming, this presents a whole list of new challenges. Since the virus spreads indoors, you'll want to figure out a way to stay safe. I'm thinking—a warm coat, woolly hat, gloves, and a patio heater. It's time for hot soup in the garden and more brisk country walks to keep warm. We need to make use of the daylight and change our routine—we have been walking in the evenings when it's coolest.
Think positive. This won't last forever. Following the infection control advice, the best we can, will speed the virus on its way. If we don't follow advice, it will continue to spiral out of control.
I had a flu shot this week, and a Pneumococcal Vaccination. I'm typing with cold hands as we haven't put the central heating on yet. My hopes are set on the vaccine.
For now, it's my best advice, stay home, stay warm, and stay protected.
Let's get back to life as it was—BC!
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy