There's a lot of advice about how to stay safe from the coronavirus this fall, but the nation's top infectious-disease expert wants you to keep one tip at top of mind: stay out of restaurants and bars—basically, away from any indoor spaces with crowds.
In many states, restaurants and bars were closed early in the pandemic. Some states reopened bars, only to close them again when several outbreaks were linked to bars. Eight months into the COVID-19 era, New York is only just now allowing indoor restaurant service (at 25% capacity) as of Sept. 30; there, bars are still outdoor-only.
In an interview with MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes last week, Fauci said, "I totally agree" that bars should remain closed.
Why? Fauci said that if you look at the figures on the CDC website, "that's really telling."
"It shows the … risk of different types of situations that give you a higher risk of transmissibility, and coming right out at you from the figure is restaurants, bars, and gyms," said Fauci. "When you have restaurants indoors in a situation where you have a high degree of infection in the community [and] you're not wearing a mask, that's a problem.
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"And that's the reason why we have very, very clear when we make a recommendation, depending upon the level of infection in the community, you've got to look very carefully at things like bars as a really important place of spreading of infection," Fauci added. "There's no doubt about that. And that becomes particularly important if you happen to be in an area with a high degree of community spread. So those are things that are crystal clear."
In June, Fauci told a Congressional hearing, "Congregation at a bar inside is bad news. We've really got to stop that. Right now." That month, 107 coronavirus cases were linked to a single bar in East Lansing, Michigan. In recent weeks, many colleges have welcomed students back to campus, only to cancel in-person classes because of COVID-19 outbreaks linked to indoor parties and gatherings.
Fauci has repeatedly advised that "outdoors is better than indoors." Several studies have shown that the coronavirus can spread readily indoors via recirculated air in ventilation systems, while transmission outdoors is much less likely. Fresh air causes coronavirus particles to disperse before they can be inhaled or otherwise invade the mucous membranes, which experts believe are the primary means of COVID-19 transmission.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.