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I'm a Virus Expert and Here's How to Not Catch COVID 

“We all have to act together” and do these things, she says.

Karen Jubanyik, MD, emergency medicine physician at Yale Medicine, associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, and co-author of Beat the Coronavirus: Strategies for Staying Safe and Coping With the New Normal During the COVID-19 Pandemic, tells us how not to catch COVID. "We all have to act together and act in the best interests of our communities," she says. "If we do not act and act decisively and quickly, it is likely that worse variants will emerge." Read on for her 5 life-saving ways to not catch coronavirus—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


I'm a Doctor and Here's How to Not Catch Delta

Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus, covid-19 and vaccination concept.

Basically, rules of the first wave now apply during Delta and Omicron variants. Everyone who can get a vaccination should get one. Ask your medical provider if you have questions about whether there are real medical reasons why you should not get a vaccination—there are very few true contraindications to the vaccination. That said, there are some people who may not respond adequately to full vaccination due to aging, immune disorders, cancer, medications and other conditions, and we all need to do our part to protect them by doing all we can to not get Delta ourselves and potentially spreading it to others. And as of this writing, children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated. So they remain a large pool of vulnerable people, as well as a pool of people who may get asymptomatic cases and spread to vulnerable adults. Keep reading for the other 4 things you must remember.

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Wear a Mask—They Work—and Wear This Kind Exactly

Woman in a restaurant with face protection mask kn95.

And when I say we all need to do everything we can do to avoid getting Delta, in addition to getting vaccinated (including boosters when indicated), we need to protect each other by wearing masks. Masks work. This is science. This was proven many years ago – the wearing of surgical masks has prevented many patients from getting infections from their surgeons and the surgical teams. Would you allow your surgeon to operate on you without a mask? Masks are not a political debate. They work. They prevent the spread of respiratory viruses from person to person. Many of us treated many sick patients in the ED, inside, in close proximity and managed to not get COVID because we were wearing masks. Much of the spread of COVID has been in social settings and in households when people are in close contact, indoors, without masks. That is what spreads COVID. So the lesson learned is that people should wear masks in classrooms, stores, on public transit—basically anywhere people will be in close proximity to each other indoors for prolonged periods of time (>20 minutes). I would not go to an indoor concert, comedy club, restaurant, or bar right now. I would be reluctant to fly on a plane, and would not do so for a purely recreational reason like a vacation. If I had to fly for work or for a family reason, I would double mask, including wearing N95. The circulation on planes has been shown to be very good, but if the person sitting next to you has COVID and is coughing, I would be worried without a very good mask. 

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Here's What I Have to Say About Your "Rights"

Covid-19 patient with oxygen mask in bed in hospital

The overall issue right now is that people are focusing on themselves and their own risk tolerance and feelings about their "rights." But the reality is that we are all responsible for the health of the community. A parent might feel that they have "the right" to say that their 4th grader does not have to wear a mask, but just like we have a responsibility to stop at red lights, and to not drive drunk (even if we think we have a right to do what we want), that parent has a responsibility to keep their 4th grader from getting COVID and potentially spreading it to a classmate or classmate's family member who might get really sick or die if they get COVID. We are seeing that even people who get asymptomatic cases of COVID may have long lasting symptoms involving the heart, lungs or brain.

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Here's What I Would Do Myself—And Would Not Do

Mother puts a safety mask on her son's face.

So I would send my kid to school. I would have them involved in safe activities, which include outdoor sports, masked indoor sports and other activities. I would not travel for leisure to areas of the country that have high community spread (which is most of the country). Keep in mind that many countries outside the US have relatively low rates of vaccination. So if one travels to one of those places, or a place where lots of unvaccinated people are traveling, it could be very unsafe to go into museums, stores, restaurants, if unmasked. I would not socialize at large indoor gatherings like weddings or parties, unless people are masked. I would not socialize with families I knew were not following sensible guidelines. I would go visit relatives in a nursing home or hospital, but only if masked. I would not take public transportation (subway, bus, train) unless everyone was adhering to masking. 

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Final Words From the Virus Expert

This is all very fluid—things can change from location to location, even in a manner of a week or two. Most other countries had short Delta waves, so we can hope that we get through this quickly. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Karen Jubanyik, MD
Karen Jubanyik, MD is Associate Professor, Clinician-Educator Track, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Read more about Karen
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