Places You're Most Likely to Catch Omicron, Experts Say
It seems like COVID is never-ending and now we're battling the latest surge, thanks in part to Omicron, the highly contagious variant that is sweeping across the country. It's been years since we've been on edge, socially distanced and worn masks, and while it's exhausting, now isn't the time to let our guard down. It's important to continue to take precautions and Eat This, Not That! Health talked with LetsGetChecked's Executive Director of Epidemiology, Dr. Gwen Murphy, Ph.D., MPH about places we should avoid to help prevent the spread of COVID and catch the virus. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Murphy says, "Coronavirus is very easy to transmit. While the highest risk of you picking up the infection is from contact with someone who is sick, we all know now that you can pick up the infection from people who are not showing any symptoms, or not yet showing symptoms. In fact people are MOST infectious in the days before they develop symptoms. The virus will spread in the small liquid droplets (some visible, some not) from an infected person's mouth or nose when they cough or sneeze, speak, sing or even breathe. You will become infected when you inhale these droplets or aerosols or when they make contact with your eyes, nose or mouth."
According to Dr. Murphy, "If you are close enough to someone else to be able to have a conversation and hear them easily you can also assume that if they are infected, those droplets are landing on you, whether or not you can see it. Wearing a mask when talking to someone like this greatly reduces the chance that you will pass on the infection, but it does not fully protect you from picking up the virus from someone else. Next time you find yourself talking to someone just take a step back to put some distance between each other which makes it harder for the droplets to transfer from one person to the other."
Dr. Murphy explains, "If you think of a cold morning in winter when we can see our breath as we exhale – imagine those clouds now, imagine clouds of breath around everyone. Now imagine all of these people together in an indoor space with no open windows – the clouds of exhalation would just hang in the air with nowhere to go. If you imagine one person in this room who is unknowingly infected you can see how easily those virus droplets landing on someone else or being inhaled by someone else. Meeting outdoors or keeping doors and windows open means the droplets are less likely to hang in the air and hopefully less likely to land on other people."
Why Omicron is Much More Contagious Than Previous Strains
"We have learned a lot about Omicron in a few short weeks," Dr. Murphy states. "We have known from the start that Omicron appears to transmit really effectively from person to person, more so than the Delta variant and we are continuing to learn more about how it can do this. Previous coronavirus variants replicated in the lungs…meaning that the virus needed to be in the lungs to reproduce at a high rate. Omicron is different because it can replicate in the upper respiratory tract which is allowing it to spread more easily. The mutations in the Omicron variant seem to make the virus 'stickier'…it can adhere to human cells more easily. Lastly, with Omicron we are seeing a high number of re-infections, so that even where people have been recently infected they can catch and transmit Omicron. Thankfully, vaccination is effective against Omicron and it will save your life, but it might not prevent you from picking up the virus."
Why People are Getting Omicron Even Though They're Fully Vaxxed and Boosted
While there are large groups of people who are not vaccinated the virus will continue to circulate. When Omicron meets someone who is vaccinated it appears to be good at infecting the person, but their vaccine coverage still gives great protection against severe disease and hospitalization. Having a booster shot has also been shown to confer great protection against Omicron.
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.