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Most People Catch COVID This Way, Studies Show

These 5 ways can get you sick.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The coronavirus pandemic is ebbing in some states, raging in others, and one thing is for certain: You can take measures to protect yourself, no matter where you live. One way to do so is to learn how most people catch COVID—and not do what they do. Here are the ways most people catch COVID, as proven by studies. Read on till the very end to stay healthy—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Most People Who Get Sick From COVID are Unvaccinated

unrecognizable doctor trying to vaccinate its patient while she is refusing it.

Virus experts from Michael Osterholm to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called our current stage a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." In fact, a recent study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found unvaccinated people are about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 than those who are fully vaccinated. "These infection and hospitalization rate data indicate that authorized vaccines were protective against SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 during a period when transmission of the Delta variant was increasing," the agency wrote in the study. That's not to say people who are vaccinated can't catch a "breakthrough case" of COVID; they can. Those breakthrough cases can also lead to severe illness in some cases, as with the late Colin Powell, who had an underlying condition, cancer, that weakened in immune system. However, the vast majority of those vaccinated will in fact be safer, the data proves.


Most People Who Catch COVID are Exposed to Someone Who Has It

Waiter coughing into elbow while serving customers in a restaurant.

"COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. Staying away from others helps stop the spread of COVID-19," warns the CDC. If you know someone who may have COVID, or think you have it yourself, get tested ASAP and stay away from other people until you have a conclusive result. "Quarantine if you have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19, unless you have been fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 5-7 days after their exposure, even if they don't have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative."

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Most People Who Catch COVID Caught it Indoors

Friends in the Pub

"Outdoors is better than indoors," says Dr. Fauci. "Spread of COVID-19 occurs via airborne particles and droplets," reports the EPA. "People who are infected with COVID can release particles and droplets of respiratory fluids that contain the SARS CoV-2 virus into the air when they exhale (e.g., quiet breathing, speaking, singing, exercise, coughing, sneezing). The droplets or aerosol particles vary across a wide range of sizes – from visible to microscopic. Once infectious droplets and particles are exhaled, they move outward from the person (the source). These droplets carry the virus and transmit infection. Indoors, the very fine droplets and particles will continue to spread through the air in the room or space and can accumulate."

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Crowds Can Be a Driver of Transmission

The crowd of visitors to the festival.

How big a crowd is too big? "In the study, posted online March 12 at, five epidemic modelers showed mathematically how an epidemic can be controlled without banning all get-togethers. Their model includes a version of the "friendship paradox," which says that your friends in a social network on average have more friends than you. When an epidemic strikes such a network, large gatherings are especially bad because they attract people who have more contacts than average — and hence are more likely to already be infected. It's possible to determine the dividing line between an effective and an ineffective intervention, the team found. In one hypothetical epidemic, if you banned gatherings larger than 30, the epidemic would rage on. But if you banned groups larger than 20, it would eventually die out. The threshold of effectiveness, for this particular social network model (one in which the friendship paradox was fairly strong), was 23," reports Science News.

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Female patient smiling behind the face mask and with her eyes, while getting flu shot

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, 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.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek