Places "Swarming" With COVID, Say Experts
Christmas 2021 might seem like a lot of deja vu, amid reports of COVID cases skyrocketing and local businesses closing because of outbreaks. But the pandemic is in a very different place than it was last year. There are vaccines, boosters, and antiviral treatments coming soon. And unlike last year, the CDC isn't advising Americans against all holiday travel. This year, experts are encouraging vaccinated Americans to celebrate with loved ones—with some important caveats. Some places are essentially swarming with COVID and should be avoided or only visited after taking precautions to avoid infection. 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.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, has been urging Americans to enjoy the holidays with family, as long as everyone is vaccinated. "But I want to make sure this is not confused with going to a large gathering — and there are many of these — parties that have 30, 40, 50 people in which you do not know the vaccination status of individuals," he said on Thursday. "Those are the kind of functions — in the context of COVID and particularly in the context of Omicron — that you do not want to go to."
"Given the number of new cases reported daily, infected people are at airports and getting onto airplanes," said Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies public health and aviation security, told NBC News this week. "The riskiest part of air travel is the time before and after flights, not during flights. Waiting in a terminal prior to boarding is a vulnerable time and environment for virus spread." Your move: Be vigilant about wearing a high-quality mask (like an N95, KN95 or surgical mask) at all times. If you haven't upgraded from a cloth mask, now is the time.
Houses of Worship
Crowded Christmas services are another potential hotspot. "If people are going to gather in places of worship, they should be prepared for the fact that they will be exposed to the variant," Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told NorthJersey.com on Thursday. Experts' advice: Attend services virtually if possible, and wear a mask if you attend in person.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned that eating in a restaurant poses a major COVID risk. This still applies amid the surge of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants. "If you're indoors — whether it's a restaurant, a gym or a concert — you're going to be more prone to acquiring the virus, whether you're vaccinated or not, just from that unventilated setting," Ravina Kullar, a Los Angeles-based infectious disease expert and member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told CNBC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising Americans not to travel to countries at Level 4 COVID spread, defined as more than 500 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. More than 85 countries are now on that list, including the United Kingdom, France and Spain. You can see the agency's latest recommendations in map form here.
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.