Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are driving another COVID-19 surge in the US, virus experts warn. "Our data suggest that these new Omicron subvariants will likely be able to lead to surges of infections in populations with high levels of vaccine immunity as well as natural BA.1 and BA.2 immunity," says Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "However, it is likely that vaccine immunity will still provide substantial protection against severe disease with BA.4 and BA.5." Here are five places you should avoid to protect yourself from infection. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Jails and Prisons
Jails and prisons are high-risk locations for COVID-19 due to the difficulty of social distancing. "Prisons, by design, are not made for social distancing," Bureau of Prisons director Michael Carvajal told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "They are, on the opposite, made to contain people."
Indoor gyms—especially classes when people are working out next to each other—might as well be superspreader locations. "[As an exercise physiologist], and we knew before that when you exercise, there's more air coming out of a person," says Henning Wackerhage, professor of exercise biology at Technische Universität München. "But we didn't know before, and which, quite frankly, I didn't expect, is that also when we exercise hard: there are more particles per liter of air."
"If you're not willing to get COVID don't go," says Dr. Michael Klompas, hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "At a time like now, when there's a lot of COVID around, it is a high risk proposition."
"Outside is better than inside, so if you're going to the movies, be fully vaccinated and masked," says Georges C. Benjamin, MD. "I wasn't a fan of vaccine passports before, but I'm there now. There's equitable access to vaccines. If a business wants you to show a vaccine card, there's no reason why you shouldn't. I would require people to wear a mask in common areas. And of course, I'd give caution to people with underlying medical problems."
Nursing homes have been a high-risk spot for COVID-19 infection since the start of the pandemic: One study of 104 COVID patients showed the virus was detectable in 90% of patients' rooms (especially on remote controls and nurse call buttons) and still detectable days later. "These data show that coronavirus is ubiquitous and persistent in the rooms of nursing home residents with COVID-19, and highlight the ongoing importance of rigorous cleaning and protection of staff and visitors," says Lona Mody, MD., MSc., leader of nursing home infection prevention research at Michigan Medicine's Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine as well as VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
Bars and Restaurants
Restaurants and bars continue to be high-risk places for COVID, experts say. "Restaurants and bars are of particular risk primarily because interactions between people occur within 6 feet of others," warns the Dallas County Public Health Committee. "The CDC released a study of 314 adults which found that individuals with COVID-19 were more likely to have eaten at a restaurant or been in a bar in the previous 2 weeks. In people without known COVID-19 contacts, the risk of catching COVID-19 doubled by visiting restaurants or bars if the majority of patrons were wearing masks and quadrupled if they were not."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted 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.