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The #1 Place You Shouldn't Enter Right Now

Mask or no mask, these places are not safe.

COVID-19 fatigue is a real thing—after almost two years of social distancing, working from home, and mask wearing, people are ready to resume a normal life. While this is understandable, it's important to still be aware of the danger the virus—and its variants—still pose. "I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested," says CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. "That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us. Right now our CDC guidance has not changed…We continue to endorse universal masking in schools. We have and continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission—that is essentially everywhere in the country in public indoor settings."

Here is the #1 place you shouldn't enter right now—even with a mask on. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Indoor Gyms

multiracial group of 20 or 30-something adults on bikes in an indoor cycling class
Shutterstock / vectorfusionart

According to the CDC, gyms are concering due to "touching or handling frequently touched surfaces and equipment, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes." 

"I think that is a high-risk situation," says Dr. Rambod Rouhbakhsh. "First of all, it's indoors. Second of all, the volume and the distance of your expiration are going to be multiplied when you're exercising. You're breathing much more quickly and much more deeply and you're also indoors, so that is a very high-risk situation, in my opinion, and one which I don't think you should partake in gyms without a mask. You can go and use that gym. Do your resistance workout, don't do it at such an intensity that it requires you to overheat and over-expire. But you can get that portion of your workout in a gym and be safe and wear a mask."

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Crowded Stadium Events

Fan celebrating a victory at a American football game.

Crowded indoor sporting events and concerts are problematic for several reasons, not least that people are usually shouting or singing, which means droplets are more likely to be released into the air. "Unfortunately, right now, with Omicron, we're seeing it set in rapidly and the number of cases is just skyrocketing," says infectious disease doctor Christopher Belcher, MD. "There will be people at these events who have Omicron and are contagious. These are all considerations in that risk discussion. Because of the high risk in the community, I would strongly discourage anyone who's not vaccinated from going, and I would strongly discourage people who have underlying medical problems where the vaccine may not be as protective as it has been in the past to stay home as well."

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People standing in line front of bank/store due to coronavirus pandemic safety guideline

No one actually wants to go to the DMV—and COVID-19 is even more of a reason to take care of business online, if possible, to prevent the inevitable contact that happens in a crowded space. "You start to come up on the person ahead of you, you almost mentally try to move yourself closer," says Dr. Daliah Wachs. "To keep that six feet distance and to see that desk far away, I think the DMV because of how busy they are, and how we don't have enough of them."

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There is Still Risk at Indoor Bars and Restaurants

Group of young friends making a toast at a dinner party

Bars and crowded restaurants are almost impossible to properly social distance in—and the more people drink, the more comfortable they are with letting their guard down and moving physically closer to the people around them. "Bars play a role in the spread of COVID-19 in communities because of limited mask use while eating and drinking, especially when physical distancing is not observed," says Illinois Department of Public Health researcher Shelby Daniel-Wayman. "If you visit a bar or restaurant, it's important to take steps to reduce your risk for COVID-19, such as wearing a mask in public, staying at least six-feet away from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing your hands often."

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Grocery Shopping During the Busy Period

girl in a protective medical mask looks at the camera and stands in line at the cash register in a supermarket

Grocery shopping is not in the same category as going to a gym or a bar, but it can still be dangerous at peak shopping times—so aim to be there when you know it won't be too crowded. "It's not just the activity itself, it's the density of that activity," says John Carlo, MD, chief executive officer for Prism Health North Texas. "It's one thing to go to a supermarket, and it's another thing to go to a crowded supermarket. If I go Sunday afternoons, just before the Cowboys game, it's jam-packed."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor's gloved hands using cotton before vaccine.

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.

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Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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