Where you can contract COVID-19; Things to look out for!

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

December of this year marks the 10th consecutive month of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, with the novel coronavirus outbreak first being designated a global pandemic back on March 11th of this year by the World Health Organization. With the world having endured this outbreak for almost a year now, it’s important that at this point we become familiar with the areas most prone to housing the virus (and the situations wherein we contract the virus in the first place) to ensure that we continue staying healthy.

Now, the easiest way to protect yourself from contracting the disease would be to try and self-isolate and stay indoors if possible, but for many of us, this just isn’t practical. Meaning occasionally, we need to put that mask on and brave the outside world. Many of us students have chosen to begin reattending school physically, or have family members that depend on us retrieving things from the outside world, and, like it or not, it’s becoming more common for people to just go outside for the sake of it as quarantine regulations begin to get more relaxed. Due to the increased influx of people trying to go back outside and create a new sense of normalcy, it’s important to know the areas where we’re most at-risk.

Firstly (and sadly), there are restaurants. We all have that one-favorite restaurant that we like to frequent, and with decreased coronavirus restrictions, more and more people are taking the plunge to try and visit their preferred establishments. Now obviously, it’d be a bad idea to dine inside of a restaurant, whether it be a fast food joint or just casual dining. You and dozens of other non-mask-wearers (since you need to take off your mask to eat and drink) are packed into a small space full of servers, cooks, and other staff. With the average party of 2 in the United States staying an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes from ordering, eating, and leaving, it leaves plenty of room for things to go wrong. Now, you may think that dining in the little open-air patio spaces that many restaurants use should be fine since there’s plenty of open space, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In L.A County California alone, where restrictions loosened, thus allowing restaurants to open their outside spaces instead of only allowing dine-out or delivery, a new ordinance had to be put into place after, in November, the five-day average of coronavirus increased to over 4,000, with hospitalizations surging to an estimate of 1,500, a 92% increase from that of the then last month’s October. The director of public health for Los Angeles county, Barbara Ferrer, issued in a press release that, “The persistent high number of [COVID-19] cases requires additional safety measures that limit mixing in settings where people are not wearing masks”. While this new ordinance will likely be a grave detriment to restaurant owners all over L.A, it goes to show that for us as patrons, it’s best to just turn on our phones and order some take-out instead.

Next, there’s schools. For us as students, school has always been an ever-present factor in our life since our first day of pre-k or kindergarten (save for the occasional breaks dotted around the year and summer vacation), so when the pandemic was officially declared in March and schools were closed en-masse, many of us saw this as a saving-grace, but later might’ve found difficulty adapting to the new schedule.

Now, after the summer break and the introduction to the new schoolyear, many are given the option to start attending school physically along with the previously instituted online versions. Many students, as the year goes on, will face the difficult decision on whether to attend school or not as more and more other students do. Currently, schools around the nation need to follow an extremely rigid set of guidelines when they begin letting students attend physically. These include measures like routine temperature checks, limits as to how many students can attend at a time, and a strict mask-wearing policy for all students and faculty. Many across the nation feared a large spike in COVID-19 cases in students when schools reopened, with the CDC approximating that 56 million students returning to school, but in the first few weeks’ things all seemed well, attributed to the strict measures that were put in place.

As the months dragged on though, a worrying trend had started. In areas where schools had reopened, the rate of decline in coronavirus cases had begun to slow down, with epidemiologists fearing this could signify a new increase in COVID-19 cases in students. We all know that correlation never equates to causation, but as more and more schools begin to shut down due to cases of a student contracting the virus, the practice of allowing students to attend school is being questioned. Even though schools are enacting strict measures, the fact remains that they are enclosed spaces, with students having to stay for long lengths of time in each classroom. If we were to follow the restaurant example, you might want instead to stay enrolled in online classes, but the fact remains that if these strict protocols continue to be followed, then theoretically, we should be safe. Schools still offer positive conditions for the spread of the coronavirus, so if you do choose to attend, it’s important to follow the rules set into place. Or, you could always just continue to attend online school and save yourself the hassle.

Lastly, and maybe most frustratingly, are beaches and community pools. Seeing as how a significant population of the United States lives on either side’s coasts, many may be tempted to take a dip in the water amid this pandemic to try and relax from the chaos a little. This is especially tempting here in South Florida where thanks to our proximity to the equator, it’s usually prime beach time all-year-round.

Expectedly, many people may view this as a viable option since there’s the popular notion that in open-air spaces you’ll have a less likely chance of contracting the virus. This part of the statement is largely true, as enclosed spaces such as the previously mentioned restaurant scenario often have poor ventilation and closer proximity to others without masks which is bound to create a recipe for disaster. The issue with the statement comes when you apply this common-sense knowledge to a completely different and varied scenario, like a gathering on the beach. Think of it this way; it’s noon on a hot Saturday at Miami Beach, and you’re about to enjoy a day out from the monotony of quarantine life. The problem is, you think when you and hundreds of other people have the chance to finally relax in a while, proper social distancing protocols will be followed?

That was a rhetorical question, of they won’t. Beaches, with hundreds and hundreds of people close to one another, sweating, exercising, and breaking social distancing rules, are an absolute nightmare for anyone trying to stay safe from the coronavirus. The CDC themselves dedicate an entire section discussing the risks of public beaches, a short transcript of which states “The more and more you interact with others outside of your family, and the longer these periods are, the more drastic the chances are of you contracting the virus is”, beaches are a prime fit for all these criteria.

All it takes is for one individual at a beach to be asymptomatic with COVID-19, and suddenly hundreds of people have put themselves at high risk for contracting the disease. For those of us fortunate enough to have a backyard pool, it would be best to satisfy our swimming fix there instead. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, we’ll have to wait until after the pandemic to enjoy ourselves, but it’s what’s best for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

This applies to all our future endeavors outside, whether you’re going out for a quick bite to eat, going out with your friends, or even just coping with attending school physically, it’s important to ensure you stay safe. Now that you know the places most prone to cases of the virus, hopefully you’ll learn to avoid them until the pandemic blows over. Most importantly, wear your mask when going outside regardless of whether or not the area you’re visiting has been designated here as “risky. It’s the best we can all do to contribute to finally bring this disease to an end.