In the new year, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is just about everywhere, and it’s much easier to catch than any previous strain of the coronavirus. That doesn’t mean you’re defenseless against it. There are sensible measures you can take to significantly reduce your chances of contracting COVID. One of them: Heed virus experts’ advice to avoid these places, and make alternate plans until this wave of the pandemic recedes.
1. The #1 Place to Avoid Now
With the Omicron variant surging, experts agree there’s one scenario you should avoid right now: The large indoor gathering. When you’re in an indoor space, alongside many people from different households who are of uncertain vaccination status, your chances of contracting COVID rise significantly.
“When you’re having such … a tsunami of infections—when we are seeing people who are vaccinated and boosted who are getting breakthrough infections—the safest thing to do is to be in a home setting, friends, relatives who you know are vaccinated and boosted,” said Fauci on CNN’s New Day this week. “What you want to avoid are places where you have 20, 30, 40, 50 people, many of whom you have no idea of whether or not they’re vaccinated or boosted.”
Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, concurred in the Detroit Free Press on Monday: “Now is really the time to use these tools that we have … had available, such as wearing masks in indoor public places, avoiding large indoor gatherings, taking COVID-19 vaccines, including booster shots for those who are eligible, testing and social distancing.”
2. Indoor Restaurants
Dr. Sara Cody, public health director and health officer for Santa Clara County in California, advised avoiding indoor restaurants right now. Since the beginning of the pandemic, research has found that indoor dining is a major source of COVID transmission—you’re generally in a poorly ventilated area surrounded by people who are maskless most, if not all, of the time. “I would recommend patronizing your favorite restaurant by ordering takeout or delivery; by tipping a lot if you’re able to support them,” Cody told the Los Angeles Times last week. “But gathering indoors without a mask is not the safest way to be right now, with Omicron spiking as it is.”
“Avoid shopping at overcrowded stores,” immunologist Leo Nissola, MD, told ETNT Health last week. “If you must buy in person, attempt to get what you need as soon as possible to avoid having to share your air with others. Wear a good quality face mask, maintain social distance and avoid huge groups.”
Tatiana Prowell, MD, an associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has treated people with COVID-19, seconds that advice. “We have started doing grocery delivery or contactless pickup again in the last week,” she tweeted as Omicron cases began to rise in late December.
“The riskiest part of air travel is the time before and after flights, not during flights,” Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies public health and aviation security, told NBC News recently. “Waiting in a terminal prior to boarding is a vulnerable time and environment for virus spread.”
Some experts advise postponing non-essential travel for the moment. “If you had an essential trip that you felt was important, yes. But if you’ve got something that’s non-essential, it just may be wise to wait a month or two,” infectious disease expert Robert Kim-Farley, MD, told the Los Angeles Times last week. If you must fly right now, experts advise being vigilant about wearing a high-quality mask (like an N95, KN95, KF95, or surgical mask) at all times in the airport and on the plane.
5. How to Stay Safe Out There
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 protect your life and the lives of others.
Article by Michael Martin writing for ETNT Health©