Deciding If It's Safe to Go Out During COVID
Even with the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be wondering what is or is not safe to do in public during the pandemic.
The combination of the vaccines (including booster shots) and safety measures we have been practicing throughout the pandemic is helping us feel more comfortable with returning to some sense of normalcy. With the proper post-vaccination precautions, you can resume many of the pre-pandemic activities you were accustomed to.
Your Vaccination Status Is Key
Precautions you must take to protect yourself and others in social situations will depend on your vaccination status as well as whether you have underlying medical conditions, which can be uniquely challenging to manage during a pandemic.
The combination of your initial vaccine series and a booster shot (if you are eligible) gives you the best protection against the virus. Some people are eligible for an additional primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Practice Basic Prevention Measures
If you are not vaccinated, continue to practice preventive measures including:
- Staying at least six feet away from others
- Wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth (especially in indoor public places)
- Washing/sanitizing your hands often
- Avoiding touching your face (particularly your nose, eyes and mouth)
- Practicing proper coughing and sneezing etiquette (cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough and sneeze into your elbow or mask [never take off or pull down your mask to cough or sneeze])
- Monitoring your health before leaving the house (if you feel sick or think you may have COVID, stay home)
If you have a weakened immune system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends continuing to take the above-mentioned measures, even if you are vaccinated, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
You generally do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
You may want to keep tabs on the COVID-19 situation in your area by watching your local news or via the CDC's COVID Data Tracker. If your area has a high number of COVID cases, consider limiting or avoiding outdoor outings that involve interaction with others you do not live with. If you still decide to go out, wear a mask:
- In crowded outdoor settings
- For outdoor activities involving close contact with others
Anyone age 2 and older who is not vaccinated should have on a mask in indoor public places, particularly in areas where the risk of infection is high. As often as possible, try to avoid indoor spaces that do not offer an outlet for fresh outdoor air. You are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 in poorly ventilated spaces and crowded places like bars, gyms and movie theaters.
Wearing a mask in these settings can maximize your protection, and that of others, from COVID-19. Some businesses and venues may elect to enforce mask mandates, proof of vaccination and other policies for your protection.
You should delay your travel plans until you are vaccinated. Do not travel if you have been exposed to COVID-19, are feeling sick or have tested positive for COVID. When you are ready to travel, be sure to check your destination’s COVID-19 situation, as specific travel restrictions may be in place there.
The CDC says wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains and other modes of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States. You must also wear a mask while indoors at airports, train stations and the like. The CDC offers these additional travel recommendations.
Always Be Careful
Remember, while vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19 and are effective at preventing serious illness and death, they are not 100% effective at preventing infection. Also, a person who does not have symptoms can still give COVID-19 to others.
Get vaccinated and continue to use your better judgment when going out. Use other preventive measures in addition to vaccination. When possible, opt for small gatherings and places with smaller crowds. Do what is best for your protection and that of your family and others.
UMMS provides our expert-reviewed content to keep our community informed. When sharing this copyrighted content, please link to our site so that critical updates are reflected.