Places You'll Most Likely Catch COVID, According to Science

·4 min read

News about the discovery of the Omicron COVID variant no doubt added some unwelcome stress to many Americans' Thanksgiving weekends. Is Omicron more contagious than Delta? Is it more deadly? What can be done to prevent it? Experts say it will be a few weeks before they have accurate information about the variant's severity. But in the meantime, it's a good idea to remain vigilant about the standard protective measures, especially in places where's it's easy to catch COVID, like these. 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.


Indoor Gatherings

Friends at an evening dinner party.
Friends at an evening dinner party.

"Going to an event indoors has much more risk, in the likelihood of getting infected," with COVID, said Dr. Christine Petersen, the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, in an interview with CBSN last month. "Dilution is the solution: When you're in an outdoor environment, there's a lot more fresh air."

"If you're indoors — whether it's a restaurant, a gym or a concert — you're going to be more prone to acquiring the virus, whether you're vaccinated or not, just from that unventilated setting," Ravina Kullar, a Los Angeles-based infectious disease expert and member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told CNBC in August.

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Indoor Restaurants

Hispanic young woman having drink in cafe during coronavirus outbreak
Hispanic young woman having drink in cafe during coronavirus outbreak

From the beginning of the pandemic, health officials have warned that dining indoors is a major coronavirus risk. Close seating, people talking and eating without masks, and poor ventilation is par for the course. According to a study by the CDC, people who tested positive for coronavirus were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the previous two weeks.

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crowded bar seats
crowded bar seats

"Bars have become notorious as sources of COVID spread," a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said last fall. "They are almost always indoors. People are there for prolonged periods of time, very close together, they're unmasked because they're drinking and talking. And that's the sine qua non for spread of a respiratory virus."

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A group of fans dressed in red color watching a sports event in the stands of a stadium.
A group of fans dressed in red color watching a sports event in the stands of a stadium.

Even though outdoor stadiums are in the fresh air, close seating makes social distancing impossible, and spectators are frequently talking and yelling, often unmasked. Earlier this year, CivicMeter asked 27 epidemiologists what venues pose the highest risk for catching COVID, and outdoor stadiums made the top six.

"Spectators at sporting events should consider the number of COVID-19 cases both where they live and where the sporting event is taking place before deciding to attend," the CDC says. "The higher the transmission of COVID-19 in the community, the higher the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at sporting events."

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What the CDC Says

Woman in a restaurant with face protection mask kn95.
Woman in a restaurant with face protection mask kn95.

The CDC's official guidance on indoor and outdoor activities is that you're more likely to be exposed to COVID at crowded, poorly ventilated indoor events. Outdoor events, or places where you can practice social distancing of at least six feet, are safer. Their advice:

  • Wear a mask consistently over your nose and mouth

  • If you're fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors in public if you're in an area of substantial or high transmission

  • In general, you don't need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. But consider wearing a mask at crowded outdoor events in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases

  • Avoid crowds and places that are poorly ventilated or crowded

  • Wash your hands

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How to Stay Safe Out There

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.