"Do Not Enter" Here During Omicron, Say Experts
The Omicron variant is so contagious that it's shattering records—more than 1.3 million new daily cases in the U.S. alone—and causing health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci to predict that eventually, almost everyone will catch the virus. But for everyone to be infected right now would be disastrous for the healthcare system, experts say, and it's still important to protect yourself against COVID-19. To start, they advise that these places should be a no-go during the Omicron surge. 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.
Nonessential Indoor Gatherings
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that because of the unprecedented Omicron surge, health officials are "asking that, over the next few weeks, we all try to avoid nonessential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others."
"Parties and events, especially those indoors with unvaccinated individuals or those at high risk for severe illness, make it very easy for this virus to spread," said Ferrer. "Limiting our time with others to those more essential work-related or school-related activities is a prudent action for everyone to take whenever it's possible." Given the surge in every state, the same goes true where you live.
On Monday, two countries—Canada and Curaçao—were moved up to the CDC's Level 4 list of areas where COVID transmission is very high. A designation earns a Level 4 designation when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are recorded in the previous 28 days. The CDC officially advises travelers to avoid visiting Level 4 countries. As of this week, more than 80 places are on that list, including the UK, France, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe.
From the beginning of the pandemic, studies have found that indoor restaurants and bars are a major source of COVID spread. To stay safe, experts recommend avoiding indoor dining and opting for delivery or takeout instead. In the past week, a survey by Boston.com found that nearly half percent of Bostonians were doing just that, while restaurants from Pennsylvania to California have begun voluntarily closing their dining rooms to go takeout- and delivery-only.
A new study conducted by the UK's Virus Watch quantified the COVID risk of various non-household activities in a group of 10,000 people between October 2020 and November 2021. Scientists found that people who went into stores once a week were nearly 2.2 times more likely to contract COVID—the highest-risk activity the survey found. With the rise of the Omicron variant, several doctors and public health experts worldwide have urged people to swap in-person shopping for delivery or curbside pickup when possible.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization warned against gatherings where people intentionally attempt to contract COVID to get the experience over with at a time that's convenient to them. Images of these gatherings—a throwback to "chicken pox parties" of previous generations—have reportedly spread on social media. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID at WHO, described the concept as "dangerous" and "unsafe".
"We don't know the implications of Omicron, which replicates in the upper respiratory tract as opposed to the lower respiratory tract, and if that has any implication on your chances of developing longer-term effects," she said. "You can also pass the virus to somebody else who is more vulnerable. That's reason enough not to get infected."
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.