This Is How You Can Catch Delta Outside, Even If You're Vaccinated, Expert Says
The highly contagious variant is showing that it can still spread in the open.
For most of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've moved everything from dining to exercise classes outside to make them safer to participate in. Unfortunately, mutations of the virus have made it harder to cut down on the risk of transmission. Now, experts are warning that the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant means that even vaccinated people can still catch the virus outside—but there are still a few tricks to avoiding it.
According to experts, moving activities outdoors may cut down risk, but it's not a foolproof way to prevent becoming infected. "Simply put, when we are outside there is more air to disperse the virus and reduce its concentration," Lisa M. Lee, PhD, associate vice president for research and innovation and a research professor of population health sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, told Men's Health. "However, if you are face to face with someone, breathing in the breath that they are exhaling—even if you are outside—you are at greater risk."
Lee points out that depending on the activity, your chances of contracting the virus can vary greatly—especially depending on how you may be breathing. "If you are standing around a wide-open soccer field or walking in the same direction as others, the risk is much lower," she said. "[But] remember that when working out, we breathe more heavily, exhaling more air with more force, which means more virus in the air if you or your workout partner is infected."
As a result, some experts say reverting to other familiar pandemic health precautions might be a good idea in certain situations. "Given the cases of outdoors transmission that have occurred, it would also be wise to practice distancing outdoors as well and consider wearing a mask if not able to maintain six feet of distance," Beth K. Thielen, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, told Men's Health.
A mounting body of evidence that the Delta variant can spread outside has led some health officials to enact outdoor mask mandates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recently updated their guidance to suggest that while moving activities outside remains a much safer choice, it's still advisable to maintain six feet of distance between people and wear a mask whenever social distancing isn't possible.
"We are seeing transmission in crowded outdoor settings," Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director for Minnesota, told The Star Tribune. "With Delta, when we have large groups of people together, that can be problematic. That is why [the] CDC is responding to what we are learning with this change and recommending masking in crowded outdoor settings."
But while breakthrough infections are still possible, experts maintain that getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself from the Delta variant. "This is the most important precaution you can take to protect yourself and those around you, as vaccinated people are about 25 times less likely to get sick if they get the Delta variant, in addition to being less likely to get infected at all," Lee told Men's Health. "If you live in an area with high rates of COVID-19 cases, layer your protection—start with a vaccine and add a mask and physical distance as you interact with others whose vaccination status is unknown and as the size of [any] crowd increases."