Worried About Omicron? Expert Offers Tips on Going Out Safely

Friday, January 14, 2022 – As the Omicron variable rages across the United States, an expert explains how to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Dr. Michael Lane, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said be careful when it comes to social activities and consider how much risk you are willing to accept in order to meet with others.

“Anytime people congregate indoors, there is an inherent risk of the virus spreading,” Lin said in a hospital news release.

You can reduce your risk of infection and serious illness by limiting yourself to small gatherings and making sure everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible.

In indoor gatherings, anyone 2 years of age or older should wear a well-groomed mask. Wearing a mask is especially important if you have a weak immune system, even if you have been vaccinated.

“We know that if you are immunocompromised, you may not be fully protected even if you get your doses,” Lynn said.

It’s also a good idea to get tested for COVID-19 at home before meeting others, and anyone with symptoms such as a cough or a runny nose should avoid social contact.

The safest way to communicate with others is by holding a virtual pool.

If you are thinking of going to a restaurant, you should:

  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places where you cannot communicate with others.
  • Choose times when it is not crowded.
  • If there are too many people, find another restaurant or choose a delivery service.
  • Wear a well-groomed mask when not eating or drinking.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
  • Bring your vaccination card and/or keep a copy on your phone if you are in a community that requires recipients to prove they have received the vaccination.
  • Choose dinner companions carefully. Most of the risks don’t necessarily come from people sitting at other tables, but from those sitting at your table if they are from other families.

Grocery shopping and other errands tend to be less risky than eating out at a restaurant. Lynn suggested that if you’re at risk of getting seriously ill, consider going out when the stores are less crowded, such as early in the morning.

Travel presents challenges because it is difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from strangers in airports, train stations, planes, and trains. You also need to assess the risks at your destination. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 rates for each county.

Whatever you do, the best protection during an Omicron boost is vaccination and booster, but it’s important to remember that vaccines “are not 100% effective, which is why we’re seeing some breakthrough infections, especially with the Omicron variant,” Lin said.

“But in general, breakthrough infections are mild for those who are vaccinated, and vaccines do an excellent job of preventing severe infection and death,” he added.

Resources

  • Rush University Medical Center, press release, January 12, 2022

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