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Most People Get COVID This Way, Experts Say

Experts say it's still important to avoid contracting COVID if at all possible. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

This week, the U.S. marked a milestone that seemed unthinkable in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic: More than 900,000 people have died from the virus. Although the face of the pandemic has changed drastically—there are now effective vaccines, antiviral treatments are on the way, and the latest variant generally produces milder illness despite being much more contagious—experts say it's still important to avoid contracting COVID if at all possible. These are the ways most people get COVID these days. 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.


Not Being Fully Vaccinated and Boosted

Female doctor or nurse trying to give shot or vaccine against virus to a scared patient.

We know that Omicron is highly contagious and that "breakthrough cases" have been common among the vaccinated. But it's still possible to avoid becoming infected, and it's important to make every effort. Your best bet: Getting a booster shot. A new CDC study found that people who got a booster shot were four times less likely to test positive for COVID during the Omicron surge.


Attending Crowded Indoor Gatherings or Events

woman with red curly hair laughing with her two friends in a restaurant
Shutterstock / Zoran Zeremski


Attending a large indoor gathering—where people may be unmasked and their vaccination or infection status is unknown—continues to present one of the biggest risks for contracting COVID. "If you choose to attend a social event or large gathering, we encourage you to do so safely by getting vaccinated, getting tested, and attending knowing your test result is negative for being infectious with COVID-19, wearing a well-fitting face mask to protect yourself and others, and frequently washing your hands," said health officials in California last week. "If you test positive for COVID-19, have a recent close exposure, or are feeling sick, please stay home and do not attend any social event or gathering."

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Wearing a Cloth Mask (Or No Mask)

The couple with protective masks and gloves is listening music and using phone outdoors, modern lifestyle concept in coronavirus season.

Wearing a cloth mask is better than nothing. Unfortunately, cloth isn't enough to protect you from contracting COVID these days, virus experts say. They recommend upgrading to an N95, KN95, or KF94 mask, all of which provide about the same level of protection (blocking 95% of virus particles if properly fitted). Why are these masks better? They contain polypropylene, a material with electrostatic properties that effectively trap airborne virus particles before they're inhaled. A cloth mask doesn't have that capability.

RELATED: Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID, Says CDC


Going to Gyms

woman tying sneakers at gym

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology calculated the riskiest places for catching COVID. They found the place with the highest risk is a crowded, poorly ventilated area where people are unmasked and exercising (and exhaling) heavily. According to a risk table the researchers developed, you have a 35% chance of contracting COVID in that environment when only 0.1% of the community is infected.

RELATED: I'm a Doctor and Warn You Don't Enter Here This Week


Visiting Crowded Stores

Happy woman Christmas shopping wearing a facemask

In a recent study, the UK's Virus Watch group calculated the COVID risk associated with various non-household activities. The researchers found that people who visited stores once a week were nearly 2.2 times more likely to contract COVID than people who didn't do in-person shopping. It was the highest-risk activity the researchers found.


How to Stay Safe Out There

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael