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5 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID

Before you step out, read this essential advice.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Even if you've been vaccinated, it's still possible to contract the coronavirus (although the vast majority of such "breakthrough" cases are mild) and transmit it to others. So how do you determine where to go and what to do? It's a matter of risk assessment, experts say. It's a good idea to mask up in public, indoors or where social distancing isn't possible, even if you're vaccinated. If you have a pre-existing condition, or you live with someone who's more vulnerable to severe disease, you may want to limit your interactions to those that are most safe. These are five places experts say you're most likely to catch COVID. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

Indoor Restaurants

Group of happy friends having a lunch in a tavern.
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From the beginning of the pandemic, health officials have warned that dining indoors is a major coronavirus risk. Close seating, people talking and eating without masks, and poor ventilation is par for the course. According to a September study by the CDC, people who tested positive for coronavirus were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the previous two weeks. With the emergence of the much more contagious Delta virus since then—even in people who've been vaccinated—the most cautious course is to dine outdoors-only right now, or ensure your restaurant has a vaccine mandate.

2

Indoor Bars

Men and guys out drinking beer at a bar
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"Bars have become notorious as sources of COVID spread," a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said last fall. "They are almost always indoors. People are there for prolonged periods of time, very close together, they're unmasked because they're drinking and talking. And that's the sine qua non for spread of a respiratory virus." 

One example: the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in North Dakota, an event where participants gather in local bars for two weeks each August. Last year, experts called it "a super-spreader event" where at least 266,000 COVID cases resulted; this year, COVID cases more than doubled in the state directly after its conclusion.

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

3

Stadiums

Mother with daughter and son among fans at stadium
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"Outdoors is better than indoors" is a cardinal rule of COVID-19 prevention. Unless it comes to outdoor stadiums. Even though they're in the fresh air, close seating makes social distancing impossible, and spectators are talking, yelling and chanting, often unmasked.

Earlier this year, CivicMeter asked 27 epidemiologists from across the country: What venues have the highest risk for catching COVID? And outdoor stadiums made the top 5.

"Spectators at sporting events should consider the number of COVID-19 cases both where they live and where the sporting event is taking place before deciding to attend," the CDC says. "The higher the transmission of COVID-19 in the community, the higher the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at sporting events."

RELATED: Virus Expert Says These 4 Things Stop COVID

4

Indoor Gatherings

Close up image of attractive fit woman in gym

"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 last month.

RELATED: I'm a Virus Expert and Here's How to Not Catch Delta

5

Crowded Outdoor Gatherings

Music festival crowd excitement
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said he was "a bit taken aback" by video of the huge crowds at the outdoor Lollapalooza concert, held in Chicago this summer. "There were a lot of people crowded around together, and given the fact that we know that vaccinated people can spread infection, and even though we know that outdoors is always safer than indoors, there was a really lot of crowd that we saw in those films." Anyplace where you're shoulder to shoulder with other people, you're at an increased risk of contracting (and potentially transmitting) COVID, even if you're vaccinated.

RELATED: Signs You May Have Delta, According to Patients

6

How to Stay Safe Out There

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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.