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The Riskiest Place You Could Go Right Now, Say Doctors

Experts agree: Steer clear of this COVID breeding ground.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
Young woman in protective medical mask and warm clothing opening door to store

There's a lot of advice on how to prevent COVID-19—wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowds. Many experts would add another golden rule to the mix: Stay out of bars. Often crowded and poorly ventilated, bars can be hotspots of coronavirus infection. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has been warning Americans to stay out of bars for months. In June, Fauci blamed "congregating in bars, congregating in crowds, people getting together in a celebratory way without wearing masks" for last summer's big surge in COVID-19 cases. In a Senate committee hearing, he zeroed in on bars: "Bars: really not good, really not good," he said. "We really have got to stop that." Read on to hear why bars are so bad—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Several studies find bars a COVID risk

Also last summer, the Texas Medical Association asked a group of physicians to rate a list activities from 1 to 10, based on the risk of COVID transmission. The doctors said opening the mail was least risky (1), while going to a bar, a concert, a sports stadium, or a large religious service was ranked the most risky (9).

Last fall, one report found that people with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have visited an indoor dining establishment in the weeks before their symptoms began, and the Washington Post reported that states which reopened bars saw COVID-19 cases double in three weeks.

Bars can be COVID breeding grounds for a confluence of reasons. Aside from the fact that they're often crowded, when people become intoxicated, best practices like social distancing are often forgotten. "We know that as alcohol doses increase, that produces a good amount of disinhibition," said George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in a study published in Alcohol & Drug Abuse Week. 

Drinking alcohol can lead to "more risk-taking and more immediate decision-making on the user's part," Koob said. In a crowded bar, you might be prone to talk more loudly and release more particles into the air. "You might take off your mask to make your point more clearly," he added.

Additionally, drinking alcohol to excess can impair immune system function. Until the pandemic is under control, it's a good idea to skip the bar and imbibe moderately at home.  

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.