This Is Where You're Most Likely to Catch COVID, New Study Says

Researchers found that these high-risk places should be avoided during the pandemic.

Tackling the coronavirus pandemic has meant greatly changing the way we live our daily lives in order to slow the spread. And while the risk of becoming infected changes with each situation, the sliding scale of which places to be avoided becomes more apparent with each new scientific study. This includes new research, which found that crowded indoor events were far and away where you're most likely to catch COVID. Read on to see what else the study uncovered, and for more on things that could be protecting you from the novel coronavirus, check out If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From COVID, Study Says.

A three-month-long study commissioned by Otis Worldwide and conducted by researchers at Purdue University examined how airflow affected the risk factors of everyday activities such as grocery shopping, exercising, dining at a restaurant, and riding in an elevator. When simple mitigation efforts such as air purification systems and the use of face masks were factored into each situation, results showed that almost all situations became safer. Beyond that, the length of time spent in some places also makes them riskier.

"We compared the relative exposure risk of elevators to other common activities in a typical workday, including an hour-long bus ride and eight hours in an office environment," Qingyan Chen, PhD, lead researcher on the study and James G. Dwyer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue, said in a statement. "Riding an elevator was a lower exposure risk activity, given the short duration of an elevator ride."

Others involved with the study pointed out how simple health protocols could greatly reduce the chances of becoming infected—even in a small, seemingly confined space such as an elevator. "As long as people follow other guidance, they can bring the risks down. We still want people to wear masks just like everywhere else," Otis CEO Judy Marks said during a Feb. 1 appearance on CNBC's Mad Money. "Wear them in your elevators and, truly, the analysis and the data and the science show that you are less potential for risk than outdoor dining, much closer to grocery shopping."

But the study was also able to calculate a "risk level of exposure" for other places and situations based on the "intensity of exposure," the "frequency of exposure," and the "duration of exposure." Keep reading to see which locations are the most dangerous ranked by risk on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). And for more on what else could be spreading the disease, You're More Likely to Get COVID From Someone Doing This Than From Coughing.

Outdoor exercise

Woman exercising going for a run in the morning

Risk level: 1

And for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Issued This New Chilling Warning About COVID.

Outdoor market


Risk level: 2

And for more on everyday safety measures that might be going overboard, These 2 COVID Precautions May Not Be Necessary After All, New Study Finds.

Hotel room stay

A man in a suit wearing a face mask hands over his credit card to a receptionist while checking into a hotel

Risk level: 2 to 3

Elevator ride (with mitigation)

older asian businessman riding elevator while wearing face shield amid coronavirus
Shutterstock/Ranta Images

Risk level: 2 to 3

And for more behaviors to avoid, If You Have This Common Habit, Your COVID Symptoms Will Be Worse.


white woman with brown hair wearing face mask and bright pink coat while shopping at mall and looking at a jacket
Juliya Shangarey / Shutterstock

Risk level: 2 to 3


A young woman in a disposable face mask is checking a shopping list on a smartphone while there is another woman with shopping cart background
ANRproduction / Shutterstock

Risk level: 3

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Elevator ride (without mitigation)

Multiethnic men and women using smartphones while standing in elevator of office

Risk level: 4 to 5


Travelers on a plane wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic

Risk level: 4 to 6

And for more on how to stay safe even when you're not out in public, Dr. Fauci Says You Need One of These at Home to Avoid COVID.

Dining at a restaurant (outdoors)

A male and female couple are waited on by a female server at an outdoor table while all wearing face masks

Risk level: 4 to 6

Public transportation

young man wearing mask on bus

Risk level: 4 to 7

And for more on coronavirus news, discover The Strange New Way You Could Get COVID, Study Says.

Small indoor shop

A young woman wearing a face mask shopping in a retail clothing store amid the coronavirus pandemic

Risk level: 6 to 7

Dining at a restaurant (indoors)

Four young women sitting in restaurant, wearing face mask on chin.

Risk level: 7

And for more on the coronavirus vaccine, If You're Over 65, You Shouldn't Get This New Vaccine, Experts Warn.

Other indoor spaces (classroom, office, etc.)

Children in a classroom wearing face masks and writing in notebooks.

Risk level: 4 to 8

Crowded indoor events (nightclubs, bars, concert or sport stadiums, etc.)

a group of multi ethnic friends makes a toast on the dance floor of a crowded nightclub

Risk level: 8 to 9

And for more ways to stay healthy, These 3 Vitamins Could Save You From Severe COVID, Study Finds.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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