Protecting yourself and your family
After months of being at home, parts of the country are beginning to reopen—and people are eagerly venturing out. But that does not mean it’s suddenly safe to socialise the way we used to. With cases of COVID-19 still skyrocketing across parts of the world, many new outbreaks have been linked to spots where people are now congregating, including bars, beaches, and churches.
To protect the health of you and your loved ones, it’s important to weigh the risk level of the places you plan to visit during the pandemic. In general, coronavirus is most likely to spread in “indoor environments with limited fresh air flow, where large numbers of people can gather for longer than ten minutes of interactions, and where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing,” according to Dr Boris Lushniak, a public health expert. When planning your future public outings, experts recommend avoiding these everyday places where infection rates are the highest.
Bars and restaurants
The No. 1 hotspot for coronavirus infections right now are pubs and bars, according to Dr Lushniak. “Unfortunately, as bars have reopened, we have seen a large number of young people gathering but not necessarily being wary that COVID-19 is still a problem,” he says. The data backs him up: In the US, more than 150 coronavirus cases were traced back to a single bar in East Lansing, Michigan. In Louisiana, at least 100 people tested positive after visiting bars in a Baton Rouge nightlife district, and Minnesota health officials say a whopping 328 recent cases were linked to bars there, the New York Times reported.
Even bars that limit capacity and space tables 1.5 metres apart are high-risk environments, Dr Lushniak says. People gather as they wait in line to get in, most not wearing masks or social distancing. Inside, people spend hours in a small, poorly ventilated space while dancing, standing close together, and shouting over the music. Loud conversations at bars can release up to 10 times as many respiratory droplets as a cough, research has found.
At any indoor spot, Dr Lushniak suggests taking stock of what public health recommendations are being followed. Ask yourself, “Are people wearing masks? Is the 1.5 metre rule being applied? Is it crowded with people?” he says. Best to turn down any gathering that doesn’t abide by expert-approved safeguards.
Coronavirus infection rates at beaches across the world have seen surges in cases as beachgoers hit the waves in large numbers. It’s true that beaches allow more airflow than indoor environments, and there is little evidence that the virus can spread to people through water. But experts believe that viral particles can still travel from an infected person to others nearby, especially in places where people linger for hours at a time, like beaches and pools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although experts say the virus is more likely to spread inside, you should still take precautions when visiting outdoor spaces like beaches. The CDC recommends avoiding crowded areas where you can’t stay 1.5 metres apart from other beachgoers.