Most People are Getting a COVID Infection This Way
COVID-19 cases are thankfully dropping across the U.S., but that doesn't mean people aren't still catching and spreading the virus and new variants. "We're certainly not where we want to be, and we have more work to do—this virus is a formidable foe—but we know what we need to do to keep Americans safe," says CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "The hard work now is just coming together as a country and recognizing what we need to do in order to keep one another safe…I would love to see us as a country be in a place where we're focused a little more on the health and protection of each other, as well as our own health. I think that would be an incredible gift in 2022." Here are the five main reasons people are still getting COVID-19. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Not Wearing a Mask
Even if mask mandates have been dropped in your city or state, know that wearing a mask is still a highly effective way of keeping yourself and others safe—especially in a crowded indoor area where you have no idea if the people around you are vaccinated or contagious. "I'm not sure it has sunk in how interconnected we are—that what one person does affects the next person, affects the neighborhood, affects two people down the chain—and all that can have consequences," says Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Sheela Shenoi, MD, MPH. "Now that we've lived through this, I think masks are much more familiar to us. We know how easy it is—how straightforward it is—to wear a mask. We've learned that this is doable."
Not Getting Vaccinated and Boosted
Yes, fully vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, but the chance of it happening is significantly higher for those who are unvaccinated. "For those people who are over it, but they haven't gotten vaccinated, Omicron is a signal that the coronavirus is not done with you yet," said Stephen Parodi, MD. "You do need to get that vaccination because it is clearly demonstrated that unvaccinated people are at really high risk for getting super sick and potentially dying. There's a fair amount of data now to suggest that you do significantly decrease your chance of getting infected at all if you have been boosted. And that if you do have a breakthrough infection, even with boosting, you're much less likely to be hospitalized or die from Omicron."
Being Overweight or Obese
Research shows that people who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher chance of not only getting COVID-19, but of suffering complications from the virus. "People may not realize this, but obesity in and of itself is a risk factor for being hospitalized or placed in the ICU as a result of COVID-19," says Dr. Kyle Stephens, weight loss surgeon at Houston Methodist. "And this is particularly concerning since we also know that about 42% of adults in the U.S. are considered obese. In fact, obesity is the number one risk factor for developing a severe case of COVID-19 in people under the age of 55. People don't always see obesity as abnormal, since it's quite prevalent, but it's important to know if your weight is putting you at risk for COVID-19, as well as other health conditions."
We don't need to tell you how bad smoking is for your health (spoiler alert, it's terrible!), but smoking is also directly correlated with the worst kind of COVID. "Our results strongly suggest that smoking is related to your risk of getting severe COVID, and just as smoking affects your risk of heart disease, different cancers, and all those other conditions we know smoking is linked to, it appears that it's the same for COVID," says Dr. Ashley Clift, MA, MBBS, AFHEA. "So now might be as good a time as any to quit cigarettes and quit smoking."
Complacency While Traveling
We get it—the world is opening up again and travel is wonderful. But keep in mind that COVID-19 is still out there, and practice caution if you are planning a trip. "As long as we apply our everyday precautions to our travels, the risks can be minimized significantly," says pulmonary and critical care physician Joseph Khabbaza, MD. "We can do this by maintaining distance and wearing a mask around those who are outside of our small circles, keeping our hands sanitized and not touching our eyes, nose, or mouth if our hands are not clean. Being in environments where mask compliance is strong is also important in minimizing risk and keeping occurrences of COVID-19 transmission low."
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.