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Coronavirus FAQ: What is the risk of catching Omicron outdoors?


Every week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have any questions that you would like us to consider in future posts, please email [email protected] with the subject “Weekly Coronavirus Questions”. See the FAQ archive here.

Studies conducted before Omicron have shown that being outside significantly reduces the risk of being infected with the coronavirus. One study has concluded that the probability of indoor infection is almost 19 times higher than outdoors. Also, in a study of 64 college football games in which 1,190 athletes participated in the 2020 season, researchers at Texas A & M University found COVID during gameplay based on three post-game PCR tests per week. I found that the spread is zero. For a short period of close contact with the setting, experts say. (Of course, the soccer match was postponed this season due to the outbreak of COVID, but the authors of the study believe that players are likely to spread it in changing rooms and other indoor concurrency spaces.)

That’s because outdoor airflow does a good job of dispersing pathogens.

But does Omicron play with the same rules?

“From a viral point of view, there are no signs that Omicron behaves differently. [in outdoor settings]”She is a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Michigan and co-authored an editorial on football team research, Dr. Priti Malani.

“It doesn’t mean [transmission is] It’s not possible if you’re just packed together in the open air and people are sharing, kissing and drinking food. However, if you are casually interacting outside, you don’t have to wear a mask, even if it is relatively crowded. And at this stage of the pandemic, we have to find a way to do something that makes sense to us. It’s good to see people’s facial expressions and feel normal. ”

And playing outdoors is great for kids, says Marani — creating snow structures and sledding in some parts of the country trembling with winter temperatures.

Of course, Omicron is the most contagious variant to date. Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of adult and pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, could mean that, coupled with the vast number of cases, the number of cases of outdoor infections could increase. In certain outdoor situations. But that shouldn’t cause you to lose sight of the benefits of socializing outdoors, she adds.

“Being outdoors continues to provide another layer of protection for ventilation,” explains Weatherhead. (The other layers are vaccination, masking, and physical distance.)

“So the safest place you can [with other people] You’ll still be outdoors, “she says.

If your own risk tolerance is low, you may need to mask up in certain outdoor situations. Previous studies have shown that cases of outdoor infections most often occur during long periods of close contact. For example, it is dangerous to talk face-to-face with someone who is very close to you with your mask off, wherever you are, especially for long periods of time.

“It can happen outside,” says Dr. Don Milton, an infectious disease aviation biologist at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

Still, he says you need to be near or downwind of the infected person. “Outdoor breeze is generally safer than indoors,” he says. “The movement of the air [outdoors] It is more random and does not accumulate the virus. ”

And yes, he believes that also applies to Omicron. It makes sense for people to worry about getting more infectious variants outdoors, but the current surge in cases may have nothing to do with the spread of the outdoors. ..

Preliminary studies, including a small study by Milton’s lab, suggest that people infected with Omicron do not spit out higher viral loads than people infected with Delta. And those who are vaccinated may have less infectious viral particles than those who are not.

So, if you are worried that you may not be able to keep a distance from people whose vaccination status is unknown in a crowded outdoor situation, wear a mask.

Keep in mind that the risk is continuous.

“Sliding on ice or having an accident on the way [to an outdoor rendez-vous] Probably more likely than taking the COVID out. “

However, if you live in a cold place like her, it is advisable to leave the mask on for warmth. Does anyone want to not only keep her cheeks warm, but also take off her gloves with a mask and make a fuss at sub-zero temperatures?

Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a freelance health journalist in Minneapolis. She has written about COVID-19 in many publications, including The New York Times, Kaiser Health News, Medscape, and The Washington Post. For more information, please visit For Twitter: @milepostmedia. [Copyright 2022 NPR]




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