The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading through the U.S. at lightning speed—the infection rate has been likened to a wildfire or a tidal wave. Being vaccinated and boosted is strong protection against severe illness, but not infection. Wearing a high-quality mask is strong protection against infection, but not foolproof. Are there other things you should do—or avoid doing—right now to avoid contracting the variant? You might want to stay away from these places and situations where, experts say, you’re most likely to catch Omicron. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Cancel your New Year’s plans if they involve a big party. “Similar to what I said for the Christmas holiday, it goes true here. If you were in a situation with a family setting in your home, with family, parents, children, grandparents, and everyone is vaccinated and boosted—although the risk is never zero in anything, the risk is low enough that we feel you should continue to go through with those plans of having a home-related vaccinated, boosted gathering with family and close friends who are also vaccinated and boosted,” said Dr. Fauci on Wednesday at the COVID press briefing.
“So it really depends on what your plans are. Should you change or cancel your plans? If your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a Happy New Year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned that eating in a restaurant poses a major COVID risk. This still applies amid the rise of Omicron. “I would recommend patronizing your favorite restaurant by ordering takeout or delivery; by tipping a lot if you’re able to support them. But gathering indoors without a mask is not the safest way to be right now, with Omicron spiking as it is,” Dr. Sara Cody, public health director and health officer for Santa Clara County in California, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. She advises avoiding indoor restaurants altogether right now.
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Religious services tick several boxes for COVID risk: Large groups of people from different households are gathered closely indoors, often talking and singing, which expels virus. “If people are going to gather in places of worship, they should be prepared for the fact that they will be exposed to the variant,” Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told NorthJersey.com on last week. Experts’ advice: Attend religious services virtually if possible. If you attend in person, wear a high-quality mask (like an N95, KN95, KF95, or surgical mask).
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“Given the number of new cases reported daily, infected people are at airports and getting onto airplanes,” said Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies public health and aviation security, told NBC News last week. “The riskiest part of air travel is the time before and after flights, not during flights. Waiting in a terminal prior to boarding is a vulnerable time and environment for virus spread.”
Some experts advise postponing travel for the moment. “If you had an essential trip that you felt was important, yes. But if you’ve got something that’s nonessential, it just may be wise to wait a month or two — because we will see this peak and we will see it go back down again,” infectious disease expert Robert Kim-Farley, MD, told the Los Angeles Times this week.
If you must fly right now, be vigilant about wearing a high-quality mask at the airport and on the plane.
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“Avoid shopping at overcrowded stores,” immunologist Leo Nissola, MD, advised ETNT Health readers. “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. The bottom line is don’t go indoors with people you aren’t from your house to avoid infection with the Delta variant.”
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 to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.