I'm a Doctor and Here's Where to Never Go Now
The nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases has made this a confusing summer. Although vaccinated people were looking forward to throwing caution—and their face masks—to the wind while resuming typical seasonal activities, the rise of the super-contagious Delta variant has made it clear that isn't the safest course of action. Regardless of your vaccination status, you should keep that mask on in public indoor spaces, and you might consider avoiding certain places altogether.
We asked Dr. Gwen Murphy, Ph.D., MPH, director of epidemiology for Let'sGetChecked, where you should avoid going right now. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.
"Hot Vax Summer" Is Still Canceled
The COVID vaccines have proven to be highly effective against preventing severe cases of COVID, hospitalizations and deaths. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, recently reported that 99.5% of people who have died of COVID since January were unvaccinated.
That said, the Delta variant is estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant. Additionally, the viral loads of people infected with Delta are estimated to be 1,000 times higher than those of previous variants.
"Breakthrough" infections—contracting COVID despite being fully vaccinated—are still rare, and the vast majority of breakthrough infections are mild. But people who've been vaccinated can still transmit the virus, particularly to people who haven't been vaccinated. That may be a concern for you if you're often around children younger than 12, who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine, or people who are immunocompromised.
So it's smart to exercise caution and try to prevent exposure to the virus. "Vaccination is a huge leap forward in terms of our ability to keep ourselves safe and avoid severe disease and hospitalization," says Murphy. "However, not everyone is vaccinated, and so we can be sure that the coronavirus is still circulating where we live, and we will continue to be exposed to it."
How to Lower Your Risk
Even if you've been vaccinated, "the same basic public health guidance continues to apply: we should continue to wash our hands frequently, to wear masks indoors, and also wear masks whenever we can't maintain distance outdoors," says Murphy.
Where to Avoid Going
As experts have said from the beginning of the pandemic, keeping your distance from people who don't live in your household reduces your risk of contracting the virus, and gathering outdoors is safer than indoors. Despite the advent of the COVID vaccine, the fact that the Delta variant is so contagious still makes this true.
"We should still choose bigger spaces with fewer faces, and if we turn up to a location or event and feel there are too many people, we have to be ready to leave," says Murphy.
What That Means
Depending on COVID-19 transmission rates in your local area, you might want to avoid
- Indoor restaurants and bars, choosing to eat and drink outdoors instead
- Crowded events, like concerts
- Anywhere where social distancing is not possible
If Indoors, Mask Up
Officially, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public "if you're in an area of substantial or high transmission," which means over 50 cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of over 8%.
According to the CDC, vaccinated people don't typically need to wear a mask at outdoor gatherings. However, in crowded outdoor areas, a vaccinated person might wear a mask if someone in their home is immunocompromised.
"Wearing a mask is most important," the agency notes, "if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area."
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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