Virus experts warn that you are more likely to catch COVID like this

The BA.5 subvariant is now responsible for more than 88% of COVID-19 cases in the US, scientists warn, making it the most dominant strain. “Although it is difficult to predict which variants will come next, we scientists cannot rule out the possibility that some of these variants lead to increased disease severity and higher hospitalization rates.” says Suresh V. Kuchipudi, PhD, Professor and Chair of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Penn State. “As the virus continues to evolve, most people will get COVID-19 multiple times even if they are vaccinated and boosted.” Here are five ways you’re more likely to catch COVID, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss out Sure signs you already had COVID.

1

Not Wearing a Mask

Women with masks down

Women with masks down

Not wearing a mask in crowded places (especially indoors) can increase your risk of contracting COVID.

“If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or a tissue. Check local tips where you live and work.” advises the World Health Organization. “Do it all! Make wearing a mask a normal part of interacting with other people. Proper use, storage, and cleaning or disposal of masks is essential to make them as effective as possible.”

2

Non-essential travel

Family with two children going on vacation, wearing masks at the airport.

Family with two children going on vacation, wearing masks at the airport.

Although masks are still required at airports, people aren’t wearing them—making airports a high-risk area for COVID infection. Virologist Angela Rasmussen was concerned when she saw so few people wearing masks at the airport during a recent trip to Southern California. “That’s what happens when you don’t have politicians and leaders taking a strong stand on this.” she says.

3

Ignoring infection rates in the community

Happy couple in love taking selfie photos in New York Times Square while traveling in USA on honeymoon

Happy couple in love taking selfie photos in New York Times Square while traveling in USA on honeymoon

Monitoring COVID cases in your community is critical to adjusting behavior to the level of risk, according to the CDC: “Many people in the United States have some protection or immunity against COVID-19 due to vaccination, prior infection, or both. This immunity, combined with the availability of testing and treatments, has greatly reduced the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 for many people. At the same time, some people—such as those who are older, are immunocompromised, have certain disabilities, or have certain underlying conditions—continue to be at higher risk for severe illness.”

4

You are not social distancing

Grandmother and grandson separated by social distance on park bench

Grandmother and grandson separated by social distance on park bench

“If there’s a lot of COVID in the environment — and there is in most parts of the United States right now — if you want to protect yourself from COVID, you need to wear a good mask in crowded indoor spaces.” says Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Those are the places where you’re most likely to get it. You have to pay some attention to distance. If you’re going to be indoors, especially if you’re without masks, you have to think about ventilation and make sure the space is well ventilated. So , none of these things are safe. But if you do them all, then there’s a good chance you’ll stay COVID-free.”

5

You are not vaccinated

Doctor holding syringe, medical injection in gloved hand.

Doctor holding syringe, medical injection in gloved hand.

Although reinfections can occur, being fully informed about vaccines and boosters is still the most effective way to protect against serious complications from the virus. “This could cause confusion and frustration for some and may contribute to hesitancy to vaccinate.” says Dr. Kuchipudi. “Therefore, it is important to recognize that vaccines protect you from serious illness and death, not necessarily from infection.”

6

How to stay safe out there

Follow basic public health principles and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live — get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible. if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face maskdon’t travel, social distancing, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of them 35 places you’re most likely to catch COVID.

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