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I'm a Virus Expert and It's Still Dangerous to Go Here

Avoid these places to try to prevent COVID, experts warn. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Offices are reopening, indoor dining is back and travel is booming, but that doesn't mean the pandemic is over. There's an uptick of cases in many areas and overseas a new wave is happening. Medical experts are still advising to protect yourself because the virus affects everyone differently. You could get over the symptoms quickly without medical treatment or they could linger for weeks or months after the initial infection. Taking safety precautions is vital to staying healthy and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share the latest on COVID and what virus hotspots to avoid. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What Should People Know About COVID Right Now?

Woman Washing her hands with soap and water at home bathroom
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Dr. Emil Tsai, M.D.– Ph.D., M.A.S., chief scientist and CEO of SyneuRx, a professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and an internationally reputed scientist in neurosciences and brain disorders shares, "We are still in the pandemic phase of COVID, even though many are acting as if we have reached the endemic stage. We need to remain diligent in taking precautions against infection. The latest strains of COVID-19, while less deadly than the original strain, are far more infectious."

2

What Are the Latest Dominant Strains and is the Vaccine Effective Against Them?

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Dr. Tsai reveals, "The latest dominant strains of COVID-19 are the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. These sub variants appear to be more effective at evading the immunity people built up after catching COVID-19 or being vaccinated. The current vaccine was developed against the original COVID-19 virus; it was 95 percent effective. But the initial virus has mutated many times, making the vaccine less effective against new strains. The vaccine's effectiveness is less than 50% and is expected to continue to drop."

3

There's Shouldn't Be a Mask Controversy

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Dr. Tsai states, "Wearing masks is a hot-button topic for many, but it doesn't have to be an either-or issue. We should carry masks with us in case we find ourselves in a situation where we need one, such as in a crowded enclosed space, in proximity to someone infected or suspected of being infected. While nothing is 100% effective, the N95s offer the highest level of protection against infection of COVID-19 at a rate of 90% to 95% effectiveness. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure your mask fits well by completely covering your mouth and nose and fitting snugly against the sides of your face leaving no gaps."

4

Airports

Family with two children going on holiday, wearing face masks at the airport.
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According to Dr. Tsai, "While many airports have taken steps to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, there is still a risk. Airports have huge volumes of people constantly coming and going, increasing the chances of interacting with someone infected or exposed to COVID-19. The most effective way to protect yourself is by wearing a mask, but you should also wash your hands regularly and avoid waiting in crowded areas as much as possible."

5

Public Transportation

Young sick student teenager woman outside at bus stop is sneezing into the elbow by an allergy or cold. Scared woman in protective mask afraid cough woman outdoor
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"All forms of public transportation, such as buses, subways and airplanes, pose a greater risk for COVID-19 infection due to the number of people in a small, enclosed space," says Dr. Tsai. "As stated before, wearing a mask is the most effective way to protect yourself. However, you can also decrease your chance of exposure by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and others, practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding contact with high-touch areas when possible and touching your eyes, nose and mouth."

6

Hospitals

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Dr. Tsai explains, "Hospitals are another place to avoid if you are looking to decrease your risk of exposure to COVID-19. If you need to seek medical attention, explore alternative alternatives to face-to-face visits, such as patient portals or telehealth."

7

Public Restrooms

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Tod Bierling, President and CEO of Enviro-Master, a health and safety company, oversees how the company helps to reduce the spread of dozens of infectious diseases tells us that, "The restroom is a small, enclosed space with a lot of high-touch surfaces including sinks, door handles, and countertops. These surfaces can get contaminated quickly because the environment allows for viruses, germs, and bacteria to survive for hours, days and even months if surfaces are not cleaned and disinfected properly.  It doesn't help that most public toilets do not have lids. Every time a toilet is flushed, it ejects millions of tiny water droplets that travel up to 10 feet and land on all surfaces, creating opportunities for cross-contamination. Thanks to the sewer monitoring – we know COVID-19 particles can be mixed into those wastewater particles!" 

8

Indoor Spaces With Too Many People

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Dr. Sunil Raina who is a part of the World Health Network  suggests avoiding, "All closed spaces including offices and workplaces. Meet people outside. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor ones, particularly if indoor spaces are small and without outdoor air coming in." He adds, "Public places like shopping areas will still need caution. Try to avoid crowded places and indoor spaces that do not have fresh air from the outdoors. If you are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, stay at least 6 feet away from other people and wear masks especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19."

9

How to Stay Safe Out There

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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.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more