Don't Go Here Even if It's Open, Say Virus Experts
Many places that were off-limits during pandemic lockdowns are now open to the public, with no masks required—but does that mean they are safe? "We're in a pandemic still," says CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "We'd like to think that we're not, but, but we are." Here are five places you should avoid, even if they are open. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Crowded Indoor Events
With subvariants such as BA.2 causing a surge in infections across the globe and in the U.S., experts want you to think twice about going maskless into crowded indoor areas. "This is the moment where you should expect that if you're out and about, doing indoor activities, going to restaurants and concerts without a high-quality, good-fitting mask, you should expect that if you didn't have Omicron in the first wave, that you're going to catch COVID," says Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician and academic dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University in Rhode Island. "[BA.2] is that contagious."
Bars and Restaurants
It's extremely difficult to social distance in places like bars and restaurants, so be aware of what your own risk level is, experts advise. "If you're choosing to be out and about without a mask on, there is risk," says Dr. Ranney. "You just need to be aware so you can make an informed choice."
Airplanes are still a risky environment for COVID-19, experts warn. "Whatever the risk was with Delta, we would have to assume the risk would be two to three times greater with Omicron, just as we've seen in other environments," says David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association. "Whatever that low risk—we don't know what it is—on the airplane, it must be increased by a similar amount… 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."
Elderly people are still at heightened risk of getting COVID-19, especially with new variants like BA.2 on the rise. "COVID-19 is still a threat to nursing home residents and staff, particularly given the rise of the recent Omicron variant," says the AARP. "Hundreds of residents continue to die from the virus each month, so some infection control practices remain, such as face coverings and physical distancing."
Gyms might be open again, but some experts believe they should be avoided during COVID spikes. "People in gyms are working out, which is great for their health, but that means they are huffing and puffing and breathing an awful lot and inhaling a lot of air," says Dr. Sarah George, an infectious disease specialist at St. Louis University. "And depending on how the equipment is placed or what they're doing, they may be doing so at close quarters… You may not have all the equipment at home — you probably don't — but you can still do basic jumping jacks, jogging in place at home. It's simply in my opinion a risk you don't need to take."
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 protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.