Don't Enter These 4 Places as Cases Surge, Say Experts
The BA.5 subvariant is causing a surge of new cases across the US, evading previous immunity from infection and vaccination. So how can people stay safe? "People who were infected three months ago were seeing high levels of reinfections," says White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. "People who have now been boosted for awhile, not gotten a vaccine shot in awhile, we're now seeing a lot of breakthrough infections." Here are four places virus experts want you to avoid during this new wave of infections. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Indoor Bars and Restaurants
Crowded indoor restaurants and bars are high-risk for spreading the virus, even if people are diligent about mask-wearing. "Outside is safer than inside. It doesn't mean that the risk is zero, it just means that it's safer with ventilation," says Sabrina Assoumou, MD, MPH. "If you're in a crowded area outdoors, that increases your risk, and I would say try to minimize that as much as possible. And if you are in a crowd, that's the time when you want to whip out your mask. If you're indoors with a small group of people, open the windows, get some fresh air. And at a time when cases are going up, wear a high-quality mask. That's how we all get through this. There are a lot of things that we could do so that we can feel connected."
We now know that COVID-19 is easily spread through droplets and aerosol particles, and gyms are particularly dangerous in that respect. "Vigorous exercise puts out a lot of particles in the air and very small droplets that waft in the air, making it more likely that they're going to linger around and you could pick it up," says Dr. Marissa Levine, director of the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "It's particularly worrisome as we see these waves of disease… if you have a variant that's easy to transmit and you have a lot of them in a small space because people are exercising vigorously, that means your risk is going to be higher if you go into that setting."
The CDC is no longer tracking virus cases on cruise ships, but warns they are still high-risk places for getting COVID-19. "Cruise ships have made tremendous changes to try and accommodate COVID," says investigative journalist Jonathan Franklin, co-author of Cabin Fever: The Harrowing Journey of a Cruise Ship at the Dawn of a Pandemic. "However, you can't change the basic facts that airborne viruses love cruise ships. During our research, we spoke to CDC officials who said that if one were to design the most efficient machine for spreading COVID among 2,000 people, it would not look much different than a cruise ship."
Studies show a significant amount of COVID-19 spread in hospitals is a result of patients infecting each other. "The fact that the vast majority of infections were between patients suggests that measures taken by hospital staff to prevent staff transmitting the virus to patients, such as the wearing of masks, were likely to have been effective," says Christopher Illingworth, PhD. "But it also highlights why it is important that patients themselves are screened for COVID-19 regularly, even if asymptomatic, and wear face masks where possible."
BA.5 Data Is Likely Not Accurate
Virus experts are warning that BA.5 cases are likely much higher than we know thanks to at-home testing. "Wastewater data is very helpful, and the beauty of the wastewater is that it doesn't depend on people getting tested," says Dr. Assoumou. "Right now, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 is going up [in wastewater data]. These days, so much of the testing is happening through rapid testing at home that isn't recorded in the case counts. I'm happy people test at home to know their status so that they can isolate, but the downside is that we have not managed to capture those [results]. Some [research] estimates that cases are three times higher than the total we see, others have said seven or eight times higher." 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.