- While the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread across the country, unvaccinated people have an increased risk of developing the disease.
- Staying away from indoor places can help keep you safe if you haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Getting vaccinated, practicing safety measures like mask wearing and physical distancing, and engaging in outdoor activities as much as possible can help reduce your risk.
Due to the Delta variant, COVID-19 cases are surging in the United States.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, during the last week of July, new cases increased in 48 states by at least 10 percent compared to the previous week.
New cases increased by 50 percent in 34 of the states that saw an increase.
“The new Delta variant of COVID-19 now accounts for [more than] 80 percent of cases in the U.S. It is highly transmissible,” Dr. Kathi Kemper, professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and primary teacher for the AIHM fellowship, told Healthline.
“Everyone who is eligible for a vaccine should get vaccinated. This helps protect them and those who can’t get the vaccine due to a medical condition or age (younger than 12 years old currently),” she said.
While vaccines provide over 80 to 90 percent protection in terms of contracting a severe case that requires hospitalization or leads to death, Kemper noted that the vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective.
She pointed out that, while it’s not impossible for a vaccinated individual to get a severe case of COVID-19 leading to hospitalization and even death, it’s extremely rare. Breakthrough cases do occur in a small number of vaccinated people, but they’re generally asymptomatic or result in mild illness.
However, unvaccinated people are more likely to contract the virus, have symptoms, become seriously ill, or require hospitalization and die.
Kemper said that “currently, over 90 percent of those hospitalized and dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated” even though only about 40 percent of U.S. adults are unvaccinated.
If you’re unvaccinated, avoid crowds when outside, and especially when inside places like bars, restaurants, movie theaters, concerts, and sporting events located in areas with low overall vaccination rate.
“Anytime more people congregate, there is greater risk of exposure to the virus, from other unvaccinated people and even from a very small percentage of vaccinated people who might pass the virus along,” said Dr. Robert Amler, dean of New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice and a former chief medical officer at the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
He added that susceptibility is ongoing until you get vaccinated or contract the virus — the latter of which is the more dangerous option.
“There is a lot of conflicting information out there. We all should try to look past the debates on TV and online, and instead encourage our friends and loved ones to get vaccinated as soon as possible. That has made the most difference so far, in easing the pandemic, and is still the best solution,” said Amler.
If you’re not vaccinated, Amler said to wear a mask, keep your distance from people, and leave public or crowded spaces as soon as possible.
As a general rule, the CDC states that you’re less likely to be exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 when you:
- stick to outdoor activities
- keep at least 6 feet away from others
- limit how long you spend around people you don’t live with
Before heading out, the CDC suggests considering the following to weigh the activity’s risk:
- Is COVID-19 spreading in your community?
- Will you have a potential close contact with someone who’s sick or anyone who’s not wearing a mask (and may be asymptomatic)?
- Do you have a higher chance of severe illness?
- Do you take everyday actions to protect yourself from developing COVID-19?
If unvaccinated, you may want to avoid the following places to lower your risk until you’re fully vaccinated:
Bars and restaurants
There’s nothing like socializing with friends and family over tasty drinks and food. However, bars may not have the best ventilation.
They also tend to be crowded, making it hard to stay distant. And they most likely consist of people you don’t know, leaving you vulnerable to possible exposure if they haven’t been taking safety precautions against COVID-19.
And the whole point of being at a bar or restaurant is to drink, eat, and talk, which is hard to do with a mask on.
- grab a curbside meal
- have food delivered
- eat outside where the tables are spaced at least 6 feet apart
Movie theaters, concert halls, and churches
Entertainment is a great break from work and often brings joy, while worship may be what keeps you going during tough times like the pandemic.
But like bars and restaurants, there are a lot of unknowns in terms of how many people will congregate at theaters or churches, who’s vaccinated, who’s been exposed to COVID-19, and who’s more vulnerable.
Before taking part in these activities, research how many people will attend, how long the event or service will be, and if physically distancing and mask wearing will be implemented.
If you decide the situation is too risky, consider the following alternatives:
- a drive-in movie
- a backyard movie on a projector or screen
- an outdoor concert from your car or watching a virtual concert
As far as continuing to worship with your congregation, virtual services or outdoor gatherings with smaller groups of people who physically distance and wear masks are safer alternatives to indoor gatherings.