With COVID vaccination rates rising and new cases declining nationwide, Americans are feeling more optimistic that this holiday season will seem much more traditional than last year’s. But virus experts are still wary of a pandemic that continues to behave unpredictably: A rising caseload in Europe is only one sign that “life as it was” is still a ways off. So what does that mean for your plans this winter? Where is it safe to go, and what is best avoided? STAT News recently asked 28 experts in public health, infectious diseases and immunology about their personal levels of comfort with various public activities right now. Here are some places they said they wouldn’t go. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Go to a Movie
Twelve of the experts said they would not go to a movie theater. Three said they would. Thirteen said they would if masked. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County public health department and an infectious diseases professor at the University of Washington, said he would go if everyone was required to be vaccinated and the theater was well ventilated. Some advised against eating popcorn or other snacks in the theater.
Exercise in a Gym
Somewhat surprisingly, 15 of the experts said they would not work out in a gym right now. Six said they would without a mask. Seven said they would, but only if masked.
Attend an Indoor Concert
In the biggest consensus “no” of the survey, 23 of the experts said they would not attend an indoor concert or event where attendees were not required to mask. One said they would. Four said they would go if masked themselves. “With a good-fitting N95, the risk is low,” said Sarah Cobey, an associate professor of viral ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. “But this sounds like a situation with shouting or singing at close quarters. Unless others were recently tested and ventilation were excellent, my enthusiasm would be dampened enough to tip the cost/benefit ratio.”
Host/Attend a Multigenerational Thanksgiving Meal
The expert panel was somewhat split here: Twelve said they would not, 14 said they would, one said they would only if masked, and one said they might. “I would want to be masked when I am not eating and use social distancing when eating. Especially with family, I think that I need to be there,” said Stanley Perlman, a coronavirus expert and professor at the University of Iowa.
Travel by Air, Train or Bus For Thanksgiving
Twenty-six of the 28 experts said they would, but only if masked. Only one said they felt comfortable traveling without a mask. But some of the experts said they would skip specific modes of travel—like buses and trains—because of concerns about spacing and ventilation. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.