Here's How You Can Still Catch COVID
Mask mandates are being dropped across the U.S., but it's important not to be lulled into a false sense of security about COVID-19 and the danger it still poses. Even people who are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 still have a chance of getting infected and spreading the virus, according to the CDC: "Because vaccines are not 100% effective, as the number of people who are fully vaccinated goes up, the number of vaccine breakthrough infections will also increase. However, the risk of infection remains much higher for unvaccinated than vaccinated people." Here are ways you can still catch COVID-19. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.
Non-Essential Air Travel
While U.S. carriers still have mask mandates, people eating or drinking on board are allowed to temporarily remove their masks. If you have no choice but to travel by air, take precautions to protect yourself and your fellow travelers. "Avoid common-touch surfaces, hand hygiene wherever possible, masks, distancing, controlled-boarding procedures, try to avoid face-to-face contact with other customers, try to avoid being unmasked in flight, for meal and drink services, apart from when really necessary," says David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association. "The greatest protection you can give yourself is to be vaccinated and boosted."
Not Wearing a Mask Indoors
Even if mask mandates have been lifted in your state, the Delta and Omicron variants still pose a threat and shouldn't be taken lightly. "Like everything in life, this is an ongoing risk assessment," says Inci Yildirim, MD, Ph.D., Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and vaccinologist. "If it is sunny and you'll be outdoors, you put on sunscreen. If you are in a crowded gathering, potentially with unvaccinated people, you put your mask on and keep social distancing. If you are unvaccinated and eligible for the vaccine, the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated."
Underlying Health Conditions
According to the Cleveland Clinic, those at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 are:
- "People who live in or have recently traveled to any area with ongoing active spread.
- People who have had close contact with a person who has a laboratory-confirmed or a suspected case of the COVID-19 virus. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
- People over age 60 who have pre-existing medical conditions or a weakened immune system."
If you fit into any of these categories, take extra precautions, wear a mask, and stay up to date with your vaccinations/boosters.
According to the CDC, having obesity—or even just being overweight—increases the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. "We have learned that obesity is a risk factor for the severe form of COVID-19, which includes hospital admission, need for intensive care, ventilator support and increased mortality," says Ali Aminian, MD, Director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Need help learning about healthy weight loss? The CDC has plenty of resources to help you get there.
You Smoke or Vape
Smoking may put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, according to the CDC. "We are seeing worse cases of COVID-19 in smokers," says Panagis Galiatsatos, an expert on lung disease at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. "Your lungs, which are at the forefront of your immune system, are interacting with the environment with every breath. When you inhale cigarette smoke, germs or allergens, your lungs can get irritated, and that irritation unleashes the immune system to fight that irritation. A coronavirus infection on top of that means that your symptom response is going to be amplified."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted 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 live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.