Despite the fact that the majority of Americans are walking around without a mask, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. In fact, the recent surge of infections and COVID-related hospitalizations is inspiring cities and states to take precaution and reinstate masking policies. “The Delta variant is substantially more contagious than the alpha variant, which was substantially more contagious than the original coronavirus strain. While vaccines are still highly effective at preventing serious illness, they have lost a bit of efficacy in terms of preventing any infection,” explains F. Perry Wilson, MD, Yale Medicine physician and researcher at Yale School of Medicine. What that means is that people who are vaccinated are unlikely to get very sick, but they may get infected —particularly if they are in high-risk situations. “And that means they could transmit to their friends, family, and loved ones who may not be vaccinated,” he adds. We asked some of the nation’s top experts for tips on how to avoid getting infected with the Delta variant—as well as the types of places and situations you should avoid. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.

Woman's hand with tissue paper to push restaurant door open.

So, for vaccinated people, the concern is really more about others than themselves.  That’s why common sense approaches – like wearing masks if you are in an indoor, closely packed environment, still makes sense.  Chances are you’ll be fine no matter what, but the other people who you come into contact with (who aren’t vaccinated) won’t be so lucky.

crowded grocery store

Dr. Manoj Gandhi, MD, Ph.D., Senior Medical Director for Genetic Testing Solutions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, adds that “Delta variant spreads rapidly among the population, especially if vaccination rates in that population are low.” A good practice? “Avoid crowded spaces,” he urges. 

Young people with face masks back at work in office after lockdown.

Because the delta variant has several mutations “that offer the virus an ability to evade the host immune mechanism” and there are “several documented cases of breakthrough infections occurring in the vaccinated,” Dr. Gandhi also suggests continuing social distancing practices is a good idea. 

Mother puts a safety mask on her son's face.

While breakthrough infection is possible for those who are vaccinated, those who aren’t need to take extra precaution. “Individuals with preexisting high-risk health conditions or those who have not received the vaccine yet, such as children under the age of 12, should exercise more caution,” Dr. Gandhi says. 

Healthcare worker with protective equipment performs coronavirus swab on a woman.

If there is a possibility that you are exposed to the virus, especially if you or a family member are not fully vaccinated, it is best to get tested by a RT-PCR test to rule out any SARS-CoV-2 infection even though you may not have symptoms, says Dr. Gandhi. He notes that even those who have been vaccinated need to get tested, in order to avoid spreading the virus to others and ensuring it won’t mutate again. “The problem is that every time the virus replicates, there is a possibility for it to acquire more mutations. In some ways, it is more important to monitor disease in the vaccinated,” he explains. “If this were to occur, vaccines would need to be modified to counter these breakthrough variants.”

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Portrait of a happy waitress working at a restaurant wearing a facemask.

Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, FACEP, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine Sidney Kimmel Medical College – Thomas Jefferson University, urges against visiting some specific places—even if they are open. If you do, he strongly suggests wearing an N95 mask or double masking. Movie theaters, mass public transport, indoor exercise classes or gyms, the mall, shops and stores, all still carry risk with the Delta variant spreading rapidly. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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