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25 Ways You Could Catch COVID Right Now

Without a vaccine, we're all vulnerable to COVID-19.

The COVID vaccine is here, "the light at the end of the tunnel," as Dr. Anthony Fauci has said. But until 75% or more Americans are vaccinated, many of us can still catch the highly infectious and potentially deadly coronavirus—even (or especially) as cities reopen. "While staying at home will reduce the spread, COVID-19 can still spread in a number of ways," Dr. Daniel Atkinson, GP clinical lead at, explains to Eat This, Not That! HealthHere are the 25 ways you could get infected—or infect a stranger or someone you love—right now. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


You're in Densely Crowded Areas

A woman wearing protective face mask is seen walking in the park during COVID-19 virus outbreak

"As more roads, parks and trails start to open up, more densely populated trails, sidewalks, beaches and parks, forcing people to be in closer proximity, could heighten this risk," says Dr. Lili Barsky, an LA-based hospitalist and urgent care provider with a cardiology focus. "Thus, I would encourage people to avoid such densely populated areas." And even if you're in an open, empty space, "I would advise carrying around some form of mask, in case they find themselves in a situation where they are surrounded by people in close proximity."


You're Exercising Near Others

Woman running and do exercise wearing a protective face mask

"There's no way of knowing who has the virus around you especially when some people are asymptomatic. And if you're breathing rapidly due to aerobic exercise, you can increase the risk of intaking droplets in the air," says Dr. Pran Yoganathan. "Therefore, go for a walk or go for a run when there are less busy people about. This may involve picking unpopular times (midday) or in the evening and avoiding popular times (early morning and in the afternoon)."


You're Not Staying Six Feet Apart

businesswoman wearing face mask as a protection against viruses and talking on mobile phone while walking at airport terminal

"You can catch coronavirus outside mainly by coming into close contact with someone who is an active carrier of the coronavirus or by coming into contact with droplets that contain the coronavirus," says Dr. Sanul Corrielus, a board-certified cardiologist. "By close contact, I mean within six feet of the person who is an active carrier of the coronavirus. It does not necessarily mean that you have to be hugging or kissing in order to catch the virus."


You're Not Cleaning Your Glasses

Caucasian man in medical mask disinfecting the glasses. Precaution against coronavirus or other infection. Studio shot on blue wall.

"Something you may have never thought about that you touch often throughout the day (whether you're inside or outside) are your eyeglasses. Your glasses have a high touch surface area and oftentimes it can also carry a lot of germs," says Dr. Jennifer Tsai, a VSP network eye doctor. "Coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for up to three days, which is why it is so important that you clean your glasses properly to make sure that we can protect ourselves and stay healthy."

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds


You're Touching Escalator Railings

Person holding onto handrail of escalator in public

"COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces," says the CDC, and yet they warn: "Respiratory droplets can also land on surfaces and objects. It is possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes." On an escalator, "everyone holds onto the railing with their dirty hands, but people can get sick, and cough and sneeze they're viral particles onto their hands and or railings, which then get transferred to the next person," says Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, in private practice at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care. "Need to hold on? Carry a bottle of alcohol-based gel sanitizer to use when you get to the top or bottom of the ride."


You're Touching Public Payment Devices


"Everyone uses their dirty fingers to touch the smudged, dirty, communal credit card swiping device, stylus or payment touchscreen," says Dr. Shainhouse. "Remember not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth before having a chance to wash your hands with soap at the sink, or applying and alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer, in order to prevent catching viruses."


Be Careful With Parking Lot Dispensers

man got ticket from parking meter underground parking

"Pressing the button to obtain your parking ticket, and later reinserting your ticket/credit card and using the payment screen or buttons for payment is very germy," says Dr. Shainhouse. "Keep a bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer inside the side pocket of your car to clean your hands once you are done (and before you touch your steering wheel!)."


Don't Forget About the Doorknobs

 hand opening the public doorknob with tissue paper

"To prevent touching germs and catching bugs, which could leave you suffering from the same cough, cold, fever, aches and or chills," advises Dr. Shainhouse. "Consider opening doors with your sleeve, gloves, tissue or paper towel, and an alcohol-based gel sanitizer to wash your hands afterward."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said When We'd Be Back to "Normal"


You're Not Washing Your Hands After Bringing in Groceries

grocery store shopping

You don't need to wipe down every box of cereal. But wash your hands after bringing groceries into the house. "When people start feeling that they need to wipe things down multiple times, there's nothing wrong with that. You might want to get some wipes and put them on the doorknob or something like that," Fauci said in a recent interview. "But to compulsively feel like you can't touch something unless you wipe it down would probably create more stress than it would real protection. So what we tend to do is to tell people to really just wash your hands as frequently as you possibly can … and wear a mask."


You're Sharing Foods

friend giving water bottle after exercising outdoor together

"Sharing food or drinks puts you at risk because you could be sharing these items with someone who may have COVID-19 and not know it," says Robert Gomez, epidemiologist and COVID-19 expert at Parenting Pod. Someone could be asymptomatic, and you could be putting yourself at unnecessary risk. 


You Leave the House When You Don't Have To

Charming young woman tourist looking on Times Square on sunny summer day, downtown Manhattan

It is not totally safe to return to your normal life. "The truth is we will likely see a gradual return to normality, spread across several weeks or even months, perhaps with schools being reopened first, then semi-essential business' and services," explains Dr. Atkinson. Even if this is the case, a lot of us will still be asked to remain at home. "This includes a lot of jobs where we can comfortably do this, such as office jobs. If we all rush into leaving our homes, it will have an extremely negative impact. I see no true return to regularity until a vaccine is" distributed to many more people.


You Live With an Essential Worker

Senior man opening his front door to a female healthcare worker making a home health visit

If you're living in the same household as somebody whose job has been judged as essential—particularly somebody working in a medical atmosphere like nurses and doctors, but any hospital staff also such as cleaners and porters—you really need to try and limit your activity as much as possible, urges Dr. Atkinson. "This may apply even after we start to see a relaxation of the lockdown," he explains. "If you live with somebody who is going out into the world, interacting with other people, touching all manner of surfaces and objects, then the risk of them bringing the virus home is far greater than that of a non-essential worker who's just been out for a jog."


You Handle Money

paying with cash

Let the term "dirty money" live in your mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. "We all know that money, as in coins and notes, is usually dirty at the best of times. This is because it circulates in the financial system for several years, often decades, passing through dozens of hands as it does so, which makes it dirty and a potential carrier for harmful germs," Dr. Atkinson explains. While we've already witnessed a huge uptake in cashless transactions, due in part to several shops and supermarkets requesting this, he urges the importance of continuing this trend to help limit the spread. "I would recommend we avoid cash where possible until a vaccine is found and becomes widely available to the general public," he says. 


You Drink at Re-Opened Bars and Clubs

sports bar and beer

Think twice about amping up your alcohol consumption or partying in a setting like this, urges Dr. Atkinson. First, alcohol lowers immunity and alters your common sense. "In the excitement of all the rediscovered freedom, some might drink more alcohol than is wise, they might become less inhibited and act more impulsively, so may think less about the importance of remaining vigilant in relation to the virus," he says. Second, these settings encourage close contact, which is something you probably should avoid until a vaccine is available. "Avoid bars," says Fauci.


You're Back at the Gym

Fitness girl lifting dumbbell in the morning.

While gyms and fitness studios were included in Donald Trump's first phase of reopening the country, they probably aren't the safest places to get your sweat on. Since COVID-19 is spread primarily through small droplets, sweat-covered shared surfaces are sure-fire ways to easily transmit the virus from person-to-person. If you do decide to visit a gym, make sure to wipe down surfaces and equipment and disinfect your hands thoroughly as you move from machine to machine. 


You Touch Elevator Buttons

Pressing elevator button

Elevator buttons are among surfaces that many of us touched without thinking twice before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our normal. "For people who are still working, and for those of us who may need to return to work sometime in the future, we will begin to encounter a number of objects and items that lots of people touch, but that we do not need to," Dr. Atkinson points out. When you can, avoid touching these items or exert diligent hygiene practices before and after. 

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You're Using Gloves Wrong

taking of medical gloves

You might think that wearing gloves is helping keep you safe against COVID-19. However, if you aren't following proper procedure they might be working against you. "Gloves if used should be removed and changed every time you leave and return to the house — ideally multiple times in between as well if gone for long periods of time as you will be touching your phone and face etc," says Purvi Parikh, MD, allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network. If not changed frequently, your globes are picking up all the same germs your hands can and can transplant them onto your face and body. Or: Don't wear them at all! "Ideally keep washing your hands frequently as that is the best way to remember to keep your hands clean," he urges. "Wash your hands before and after you put gloves on and take them off a well."


You're Not Washing Your Face Masks

Reusable homemade cloth face mask before washing in the washing machine

While wearing a facemask is helpful in slowing the spread, cloth or homemade masks need to be washed as soon as you come home, says Dr. Parikh. "If they are disposable, such as surgical masks, they really should not be cleaned or reused too frequently," he says. 


You're Visiting Public Places

Two young women at a lunch in a restaurant

Just because public places are reopening — such as beaches, gyms, restaurants, bars, and shopping centers — doesn't mean you should visit them. "I would strongly discourage public places until we have a better confirmation of cases declining and NOT increasing and an idea of how much of the population is immune," points out Dr. Parikh.


You Use Childcare and Babysitters

Caring smiling mother reading book with little kid girl lying on warm floor at home, mom or baby sitter playing having fun telling fairy tale to child daughter

Many people are going to be going back to work. However, Dr. Parikh strongly suggests taking some precautionary measures before dropping your child off with a caretaker. "I would make sure they are socially isolated at least two weeks before taking care of your children and make sure they have not had any symptoms of fever or cough in those two weeks or been around anyone who has," he says. 


You Wear a Mask Improperly

woman in a medical mask on her face during the pandemic outdoors

Wearing a mask—whether medical grade or cloth—can be extremely uncomfortable. Not only can they make it hard to breathe, but nearly impossible to talk with others. However, even if you get the urge, Joseph Vinetz, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, warns against dropping your mask down to talk or dropping the nose portion down to breathe better, as it is "defeating the purpose of wearing a mask," he points out. "Not only could you put someone else at risk of getting COVID-19 if you're asymptomatic, you could also unwittingly expose yourself to the virus," he explains. Instead, keep your mask on the entire time you're in public to help prevent the virus from spreading.


You Touch Your Face Mask

woman wearing a hygiene protective mask to protect her self from coronavirus disease

Similarly, you should avoid touching your mask altogether. "On average, studies show we touch our faces 23 times per hour!" Dr. Vinetz points out. "Touching your face mask because it's uncomfortable is understandable, but it's also delivering germs and potentially the COVID-19 virus directly to your face mask." While it's hard, he urges resisting the urge to touch your face, "and if you must, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands first." 


You're Not Taking Your Mask Off Correctly

 Man taking off mask with protective mask on face against Coronavirus

Medical professionals are trained in how to take off PPE correctly to prevent infecting themselves, but the rest of us probably aren't, Dr. Vinetz points. He suggests taking a look at the CDC's helpful tutorial, offering step-by-step instructions on how to put on, wear, and take off a mask before attempting to do so on your own. 

RELATED: 7 Side Effects of Wearing a Face Mask


You Let Your Children Play With Their Friends

Child boy and girl playing outdoors with face mask protection. School boy breathing through medical mask

It's likely been hard for your children to be away from their friends for such a long period of time. However, allowing them to resume playdates can be incredibly risky for you and your family. Keep in mind that many children who are COVID-19 positive are asymptomatic, meaning they can be totally symptom free while carrying and spreading the virus. So, even if they seem healthy, you may be exposing your entire family—and whoever else you are coming into contact with—to the virus. If you do resume playdates, try and remind them to follow social distancing protocol, staying six feet away from each other, wearing face masks, and practicing hand hygiene. 


Wearing Your Shoes Around the House

Woman at home relaxing on sofa couch reading email on mobile wifi connection

According to a recent study, the novel coronavirus can live on the soles of your shoes. While the chances of contracting the virus this way are likely slim, you should still refrain from wearing your shoes around the house, as you could be spreading it — as well as other icky germs and viruses —  all over your floors without even knowing it. You should clean and sanitize your shoes, and wear rubber or plastic shoes whenever possible, as they are extremely easy to clean. 


Final Word from The Doctor

couple holding umbrellas park social distancing

Remember: The end of the virus will come with help from us all. "Whenever the time comes when we see a relaxation of the present lockdown, it will still be up to all of us to ensure we're doing everything within our capabilities to prevent transmission until a vaccine becomes widely available," says Dr. Atkinson. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more