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Dr. Fauci's 10 Worst Coronavirus Mistakes You Could Make

The nation’s top infectious disease doctor says don’t do this.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a key member of the coronavirus response team, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been out front dispensing rational, data-driven advice since the pandemic's earliest days. Although much about the virus is not understood, science has shed much light on how you can protect yourself from becoming infected and passing it on—points Fauci repeatedly emphasizes in his frequent interviews and speeches. These are the 10 most common ways you can catch coronavirus, according to Fauci, and what you should do instead.


Not Social Distancing

Two women in a medical mask enter a modern grocery market, a store. Coronavirus protection, quarantine, self-isolation.

In a speech on July 21, Fauci reiterated that it's important to "avoid crowds" and stay "more than six feet away" from other people. Coronavirus spreads via respiratory droplets expelled from your mouth and nose, which can travel about six feet before dropping to the ground. So avoiding close contact with other people is essential to stop the spread.


Not Wearing a Face Mask

woman put on a fabric handmade mask on her face

"I wear a mask all the time [in public]. You probably will not see a picture of me in public without a mask. I take the mask off when I'm alone in my office," Fauci told Newsweek on May 27. "The reason why you should still wear a mask, is that sometimes you think you're able to physically distance, but then you turn a corner and suddenly you're two feet away from five people. So that's why you should wear it in public, sort of as a backup."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says This is the Weirdest COVID-19 Side Effect


Being in Large Gatherings

crowded checkout

Fauci has expressed concern about certain areas not following reopening guidelines, with people not wearing face masks and gathering in crowds. "There are minimal things, to the extent possible that all individuals should be doing," Fauci told Newsweek. "One of them is wearing a mask, the other is keeping a physical distance and avoiding crowds." 

On July 3, Fauci told the Washington Post that he does socialize at home, but only outdoors, and he only invites two people over at a time so everyone can observe a safe distance.


Going to Bars

Group of party people - men and women - drinking beer in a pub or bar

Fauci has repeatedly stated that going to bars is particularly dangerous. "Congregating in bars, congregating in crowds, people getting together in a celebratory way without wearing masks" has driven this summer's surge in cases, he told NPR on July 1. In a Senate committee hearing, he was more blunt: "Bars: really not good, really not good. We really have got to stop that."


Not Washing Your Hands Often

Basic protective measures against new coronavirus. Wash hands, use medical mask and gloves. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Maintain social distancing. Wash your hands frequently

Fauci has been a fierce advocate for hand hygiene since the early days of the pandemic. "You say, what are the things you could still do and still approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing," said Fauci in April on the Wall Street Journal podcast. On the PBS Newshour that month, he said it was the best way to avoid contracting the coronavirus. 

It's one of the top four strategies he constantly emphasizes. "If you wash your hands frequently, physically distance and stay six feet away from people, wear a mask and avoid crowds, just those four things alone could go a very long way to containing infection," Fauci told Newsweek.


Shaking Hands or Hugging

two businessman handshaking process

Early in the pandemic, Fauci attracted headlines for saying "I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again" because it's a very efficient way to transmit germs. On July 3, the Washington Post asked Fauci when he might feel comfortable shaking hands or giving a casual hug again. "I think it's going to be a while," he said. "The infection rate will have to be extremely low or nonexistent, or we have to have a vaccine. Right now, I don't even think about doing it."

RELATED: 21 Subtle Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


Taking Airplanes or Public Transportation

medical mask in the metro

"I'm 79 years old. I am not getting on a plane," Fauci told the Post. "I have been on flights where I've been seated near people who were sneezing and coughing, and then three days later, I've got it. So, no chance. No Metro, no public transportation." 

On June 30, he sharply criticized airlines for planning to sell middle seats, making social distancing impossible. "Obviously that is something that is of concern. I'm not sure what went into that decision making," he said.


Dining Indoors at Restaurants

restaurant dining

Like bars, restaurants can be a hotbed of transmission because ventilation systems can spread the virus. "We don't do anything inside," Fauci told the Post about dining away from home. "I don't eat in restaurants. We do get takeout."


Going to the Gym

woman doing lunges at the gym wearing n95 face mask

Fauci told the Post that he would not visit a gym at this point. Instead, he exercises outside. Because coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, and the gym is full of people engaging in what experts call "forceful exhalation," it's just too risky.


Ignoring Public Health Guidelines

with sneezing at city street, woman without protective mask while spreading flu,cold, Covid-19

Many people outside the coronavirus's early hotspots thought public health advice to wear a mask and socially distance didn't apply to them. "That's a recipe for disaster," said Fauci in June. This week, the U.S. reached 4 million coronavirus cases, with 1 million added in the last 15 days alone. 


How to Stay Healthy Where You Are

The riskiest thing a person can touch for COVID-19

To stay healthy no matter where you live, wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, 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 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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
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