Virus Experts Have Stopped Going to These 4 Places as Delta Surges
Despite being vaccinated, they're taking new precautions amid the new variant.
COVID vaccinations allowed people across the U.S. to regain a sense of normalcy amid the ongoing pandemic. In just the past few months, vaccinated Americans have done many things for the first time in over a year, like eating a meal in a packed restaurant or seeing a movie at a theater with friends. Sadly, the Delta variant has now pushed the pandemic back into dangerous territory, causing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to surge once again. As a result of this alarming spike, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors again in certain areas, and other health experts say they've started to bring back their own COVID precautions beyond that.
While many virus experts say they're not canceling their travel plans just yet, they are continuing to wear masks indoors and no longer going to certain indoor places. Ruth Carrico, PhD, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Louisville, told Insider that when it comes to indoor spaces, it's best to stay clear of buildings that are poorly ventilated—so if they don't keep their doors open or the air feels stuffy, skip it, she advises.
So while Emily Gurley, PhD, an epidemiologist who works at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, told Insider that she isn't locking herself or her vaccinated family back up as Delta surges, they are once more making some changes to their daily activities, like not eating inside restaurants again.
"Maybe a month ago, transmission was just so low here, if you go in the restaurant, it's fine. Eat inside. Whereas now I'm like, 'Hmm, maybe rethink that a little bit. Eat outside if you can. If you're going to be inside, put on a mask'," she said.
Saskia Popescu, PhD, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University, told The Washington Post that she is also "not leaning into dining indoors right now."
She added that, "Being indoors is a high-risk activity when you're dining because you're eating and you're drinking. You have no mask on. There's a bunch of other people whose vaccine status you don't really know and who are also unmasked. You're there for prolonged periods of time."
Other virus experts are inclined to agree, and they're sharing more indoor places they wouldn't feel comfortable going, especially with unmasked people who may not be vaccinated. Vivek Cherian, MD, an internal-medicine physician in Baltimore, told Insider that his family is no longer taking trips to the mall and avoiding schools with no mask mandates, as he has two young children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Cherian said his family is moving to Chicago soon and looking at schools that are practicing caution during the Delta variant surge.
Gurley told Insider that she's also avoiding indoor gyms right now, especially those that do not require masks, as unmasked exercise facilities have been a hotspot for COVID outbreaks since the start of the pandemic.
But there is a chance that going into these four indoor places—restaurants, malls, gyms, and schools with no mask requirements—is less risky in your area. Some cities are now trying to make indoor activities safer for vaccinated individuals. New York has already announced plans to require proof of vaccination for restaurants, fitness centers, and indoor entertainment venues, and Los Angeles County is considering doing the same.
Currently, the CDC does not advise against spending time in any of these places, as long as you're vaccinated. "Most indoor activities pose low risk to fully vaccinated people, especially in areas with low or moderate transmission. Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant," the CDC states. But the rapid spread of the virus throughout the country means that extra precautions might be necessary, at least for the time being.