The BA.5 subvariant is causing a wave of new cases in the US, evading previous immunity from infection and vaccination. So how can people stay safe? “People who were infected three months ago saw high levels of reinfection,” says the White House’s coordinator for the response to the response to COVID-19, Dr. Ashish Jha. “People who have now been boosted for a while, haven’t been vaccinated for a while, we’re now seeing a lot of breakthrough infections.” Here are four places virus experts want you to avoid during this new wave of infections. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss them Sure signs you already had COVID.
Indoor bars and restaurants
Busy indoor restaurants and bars are at high risk for spreading the virus, even if people are diligent about wearing masks. “The outside is safer than the inside. It doesn’t mean the risk is zero, it just means it’s safer with ventilation.” says Sabrina Assoumou, MD, MPH. “If you’re outdoors with a lot of people, that increases your risk, and I’d say try to minimize that as much as possible. And if you’re in a crowd, that’s when you want to take your mask off. If you’re indoors with a small group of people, open the windows, get some fresh air. And in a time of increasing cases, wear a high-quality mask. That’s how we all get through this. There are many things we could do to feel connected.”
We now know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through droplets and aerosol particles, and gyms are particularly dangerous in this regard. “Violent exercise puts a lot of particulate matter into the air and very small droplets that float around in the air, making it more likely that they’ll stick around and you could pick them up.” says Dr. Marissa Levine, director of the Center for Public Health Leadership at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “It’s particularly concerning as we see these waves of disease … if you have a variant that’s easy to transmit and you have a lot of them in a small space because people are exercising vigorously, that means your risk is going to be higher if you go into that setting.” .
The CDC is no longer tracking virus cases on cruise ships, but warns that they are still high-risk places for COVID-19 infection. “Cruise ships have made huge changes to try to accommodate COVID.” says investigative journalist Jonathan Franklin, its co-author Cabin Fever: The Harrowing Journey of a Cruise Ship at the Dawn of a Pandemic. “However, you can’t change the basic fact that airborne viruses love cruise ships. During our research, we spoke with CDC officials who said that if they designed the most efficient machine to spread COVID to 2,000 people, they wouldn’t it looked very different from a cruise ship.”
Studies show that a significant proportion of the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals is the result of contamination between patients. “The fact that the vast majority of infections were between patients suggests that measures taken by hospital staff to prevent transmission of the virus to patients, such as wearing masks, were likely to be effective.” says Christopher Illingworth, PhD. “But it also highlights why it is important that patients themselves are regularly tested for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic, and wear face masks where possible.”
BA.5 Data is likely to be inaccurate
Virus experts warn that BA.5 cases are likely much higher than we know thanks to home testing. “Data on wastewater is very useful, and the beauty of wastewater is that it’s not dependent on human control,” he says. Dr. Assoumou. “Right now, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 is increasing [in wastewater data]. These days, so much testing is done through rapid at-home tests that it doesn’t get recorded in case counts. I’m glad people are testing at home to find out their status so they can self-isolate, but the downside is that we haven’t been able to record them [results]. Some [research] estimates that the cases are three times higher than the total we see, others have said seven or eight times higher.” And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of them 35 places you’re most likely to catch COVID.