I'm a Doctor and Warn You Don't Go Here This Week
Many of us may be thoroughly done with COVID-19 restrictions and anxieties, but experts say the virus is still not done with us. Although caseloads have peaked in certain areas, they're still rising in others, and the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to stress health systems because so many people are getting infected overall. That's why it's important to keeping doing everything you can to avoid contracting COVID. These are the places doctors say you shouldn't go right now to stay safe from Omicron. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Anywhere to Contract The Virus Intentionally
Doctors say it's a bad idea to purposely try to contract the Omicron variant—like at one of the "COVID parties" that have been anecdotally reported—in an attempt to gain immunity. "The majority of people that get omicron that are vaccinated really do have minor symptoms," said Dr. Marc Larsen, an emergency physician at Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City. "It's still playing Russian roulette, though. If you get a really severe case, you can't take it back."
He added: "I still encourage everybody to avoid getting it and to do everything they can to avoid it right now."
"Now Is Not the Time"
"Right now is not the time to be deliberately exposed," agreed Laraine Washer, MD, an infectious disease expert with Michigan Medicine. "We do not want everyone to be infected at once for many reasons. If you happen to need medical care, you may encounter long wait times and place unnecessary stress on already overburdened healthcare providers and systems. You will place other potentially vulnerable people at risk for infection that could result in serious illness for those individuals. In addition, if you are infected you will need to isolate, potentially taking you away from important occupational or educational functions."
Anywhere In a Cloth Mask
Experts are unanimous: Omicron is so contagious that cloth masks no longer cut it in public. "With Omicron there, if you're spending any more than a few minutes with people you don't know who might be infected, the cloth mask just isn't enough of a barrier" to prevent infection, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the UC San Francisco department of epidemiology and biostatistics. To stay protected, opt for a high-quality mask like an N95, KN95 or KF94.
Crowded Indoor Gatherings or Events
"When there's so many people infected, I'm not doing the large crowds, I'm really just not doing them," said Bibbins-Domingo. "Even with a vaccine or test requirement because there's just too much chance. It's just a numbers game, especially if it's a tight crowd where there's really not a lot of distancing like at a crowded concert."
"There's just nothing about an indoor gym that's attractive to me right now,," said Bibbins-Domingo. "I worry that the ventilation is not there in an indoor gym. I worry that it's very hard for people to actually wear masks in an indoor gym. And it's that forceful breathing out, that exhalation, that makes indoor gyms a risky environment. There's just no doubt about it."
Indoor Restaurants or Bars
"Bars and indoor restaurants continue to pose a high risk because of potential overcrowding, poor ventilation and removal of masks during meals," Dr. Shadi Vahdat, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA, told ETNT Health. "Safer options would be outdoor dining where there is plenty of space between tables or even better yet using a food delivery service or curbside pickup."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the 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.