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You Can Catch COVID From These "Unexpected" Places

Cases are rising again.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID cases are on the rise again nationwide, thanks to the highly contagious subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which are making both first-time infections and reinfections more common. Also playing a part: COVID fatigue and the relaxation of public-health precautions like mask mandates. You might think you know the best practices to avoid COVID, but if you've let your guard down in recent weeks, you're not alone. These are some unexpected places you may 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've Already Had COVID.

1

Areas That Had Contained the Virus

Women with face masks down
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In May, the New York Times reported that California's Bay Area—an "overperformer" in terms of controlling virus spread during the pandemic—had become one of the state's hot spots of transmission. That's because mask mandates have been relaxed and immunity provided by vaccines is waning as time goes on. "The bottom line is that there's a lot of COVID around, and if you have let your guard down, there's a decent chance you're going to get it," said one expert.

2

Low-Population Areas

A family walking holding hands wearing face masks in the middle of pandemic
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This week, Rhode Island's WPRI reported that several sparsely populated areas in the state had begun to experience upticks in COVID cases. "The two main drivers are familiar: social gatherings and travel," said the state's health department spokesperson. 

3

Small Indoor Gatherings

3 men singing karaoke in the bar.
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Since the early days of the pandemic, health experts have warned against large indoor gatherings as a major source of COVID transmission. But small indoor gatherings are risky too. The most important factor isn't the number of people but whether the gathering is held indoors or outdoors, says a new study, which reiterates that space and airflow are key to preventing COVID infections. Researchers looked at two theoretical gatherings—​​an indoor conference of 3,000 people and an outdoor event attended by 50,000—and found that even large outdoor events would lead to fewer infections.

4

Stores

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A recent UK study found that people who visited stores once a week were nearly 2.2 times more likely to contract COVID than people who didn't. It was the highest-risk activity the researchers found, an even higher risk than going to indoor bars or taking crowded public transportation. 

5

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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael