Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

As Businesses Reopen, Here Are Some of the Highest-Risk Places for COVID-19

Health + Wellness
As Businesses Reopen, Here Are Some of the Highest-Risk Places for COVID-19
A woman rides the subway during rush hour on the first day of phase one reopening on June 8, 2020 in New York City. David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

By Christopher Curley

For millions of Americans who've been locked down for months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the reopening in all 50 states might feel like a welcome relief.

But while many places may have flattened their curves, the pandemic is far from over.


Among other indicators, more than 20 states reported increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases during the first week of June.

Until a vaccine is found — which could take months or years — that means living with some degree of COVID-19 risk and taking steps to minimize that risk, both in the places you're least likely to contract the virus that causes the disease and where you're the most likely to get it.

"I like to think of it as the same principles that we apply to limit radiation exposure — time, distance, and shielding," said Andrew Roszak, JD, MPA, EMT-paramedic, the executive director for the Institute for Childhood Preparedness and a former senior public health advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services' Emergency Care Coordination Center.

"The less time we are in the same place with an infected individual, the better," Roszak told Healthline. "A quick trip to a grocery store is better than sitting through a 2-hour movie or working 8 hours inside a business. For distance, this is where our social distancing comes in. And just as we wear a lead vest to protect us from X-rays, we also can use shielding to protect us from the coronavirus. This is why you are seeing so many businesses install protective glass or plexiglass to provide shielding from the coronavirus."

With that in mind, here are some of the higher risk places you could go and how you might be able to limit your risk of infection from SARS-Cov-2.

Bars

Many of us miss socializing with friends over an evening drink, but experts say bars are among the worst place to be during a pandemic — in part because they're designed to encourage close quarters.

"The highest risk environments would be indoors with poor air/HVAC systems, with an inability to maintain 6-foot spacing accompanied by loud talking or yelling without everyone wearing a mask," Dr. Jeff Pothof, the chief quality officer at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, told Healthline. "The most common example would be a crowded bar with people having to speak loudly because of the noise and either unmasked or frequently removing the mask to eat or drink."

Wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing would help limit your risk here, but given the nature of a bar, that could be impractical.

Concert Halls, Churches, Theaters 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned against attending gatherings of 10 or more people as a particular risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Officials say that's because these gatherings offer more opportunities to come in contact with a person who has the virus. These gatherings also are less likely to have proper physical distancing.

Rock concerts and religious services are among this group.

If you do decide to go out, "Reduce your risk by being selective in your choice of venues," said Carol Winner, MPH, MSE, a public health expert and founder of the physical distancing brand give space.

"Try to research things like how many people will be allowed into the theater per showing? Is my church spreading attendees out by pews?" she told Healthline.

Community Pools and Beaches 

While the likelihood is low of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 through the water of a pool or ocean, the lack of physical distancing is a concern at community pools and beaches.

"Public beaches and community pools can go from quiet to bustling before you know it," said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, chief of hospital medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

"If you find that you are unable to wear your mask (because you are eating or drinking, for example) and you are also unable to maintain your distance from others (because of overcrowding) — it's time to go," she told Healthline.

Transportation 

Transportation, whether that's subways, buses, trains, or airplanes, is another venue where it's hard to maintain physical distancing.

You're also likely to have prolonged exposure to other people, making it especially high risk.

"In major urban centers, these transit systems are essential and because of this they are often overcrowded," Tony Abate, an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses and vice president and chief technical officer at AtmosAir Solutions, an air purification company in Fairfield, Connecticut. "This raises the probability of passing coronavirus aerial droplets from passenger to passenger by sneezing, coughing, or even talking."

Abate told Healthline that passengers should be wary of high-touch surfaces on transportation, including handrails, door pulls, and buttons.

Handwashing and avoiding touching your face are essential to minimize your risk in this circumstance.

Large Outdoor Gatherings

While the outdoors is generally safer than indoors thanks to nature's natural ventilation, big crowds such as those at a wedding or a large party still pose a serious risk.

"As more crowds gather, you will likely be in a position where you will have to ask others to take a step back and give you a safe space, as some people will not be wearing masks or social distancing properly," Winner said.

"Many people are not yet accustomed to navigating crowds while social distancing," she noted.

Many Workplaces 

Many workplaces, such as factories and call centers with crowded desks and poor ventilation, are particularly high risk.

And unlike some of the items on this list, it might be unavoidable if you have to work there.

This has been seen in real time as meatpacking plants have become some of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots nationwide.

"Social distancing must be monitored, and the business must allow employees to have a safe way to share any concerns of improper health behavior among their colleagues," said Winner.

In addition, she said businesses should provide training on the proper way to wear masks as well as remove gloves and any other personal protective equipment (PPE) required of the position.

Psychological services should be available if employees needs them, she noted.

"Compensation for COVID-19 workers should also be in place to support at a minimum, paid sick leave and if possible, bonus pay," Winner said.

Hair and Nail Salons

Hair salons have become a lightning rod for people who want businesses to reopen, but they might be one of the highest risk places you can venture.

"If you choose to go out, consider that you may be more likely to catch COVID-19 at certain places that don't follow social distancing guidelines or have high touchpoint surfaces," said Dr. Dora Savani, an epidemiologist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. "These places include hair and nail salons."

That doesn't mean there aren't relatively safe ways to get a cut or style.

"I would advise picking places to visit based on individual environmental set up vs. type of establishment. I would wear a mask and only frequent establishments that have mask policies," said Dr. Alexander Benson, a critical care physician at Centura Health in Colorado who leads that facility's COVID-19 operation team. "If you have a particular place you're wanting to return to, ask them about the HVAC and cleaning policies."

At Sweet Olive Salon in New Orleans, the owner and staff say they are following all recommended guidelines from the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology.

This includes requiring protective masks for clients and employees as well as requiring that customers come in with their hair prewashed and shampooed.

The salon also sanitizes all tools and stations between clients and limits the number of people in the store.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
Trending
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less