What To Do When You Get Into An Car Accident – Can I get COVID at an outdoor wedding or picnic? : Goats and soft drinks We’ve been hearing for months that the probability of contracting SARS-CoV-2 outdoors is much lower than indoors. Is that still true with the super sticky omicron strains? And if so, what can you do to stay safe?
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In a COVID situation, outdoor events are less risky than indoor events. They are still by far the safest way to gather, as there are still many cases and increasing hospitalizations in the country.
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But “lower risk” is not “zero risk”. Even at an outdoor event, it’s still possible to get COVID, especially as the virus continues to evolve to become more contagious and break past vaccinations or immunity from previous cases.
“With the more contagious variants, shorter periods of close contact are likely to lead to infection,” says Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease physician and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan.
As Maimuna Majumder, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, says, “the more contagious a variant is indoors, the more contagious it is outdoors.”
So extra precautions during the surge the U.S. is seeing may be in order, especially if you’re vulnerable or have frequent contact with someone who has been, say experts interviewed for this story.
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“People make their judgments based on [their] level of risk and comfort,” says Donald Milton, professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
But Majumder says “that contagion can be significantly reduced by making sure the outdoor event is not overcrowded.” That means guests have plenty of room to move around, and making sure they’re vaccinated, recently tested and symptom-free is also a very good idea, he says.
With the 4th of July weekend and wedding season in full swing, experts have answered the most frequently asked questions about staying safe outside with family and friends.
Majumder helped her friend plan a wedding with about 100 attendees, and they haven’t heard of any subsequent cases of COVID.
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First, they made sure everything was out, including the events surrounding the wedding—rehearsal dinners, happy hour, etc.
They reminded everyone to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and booster treatments that can help prevent the spread of the virus.
Majumder has organized other events and parties with similar instructions, and so far he hasn’t heard of anyone getting sick.
And for those who still think you’re not contagious if you don’t have symptoms, the mandatory pre-event test may surprise you.
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“There have been several cases where asymptomatic people tested positive, so they stayed home,” says Majumder, who urges everyone to get rapid tests within an hour of their events. Also keep quick tests on hand in case someone doesn’t get to test before you arrive.
Testing right before the event is important. Rapid tests are pretty good at telling someone if they are positive and highly contagious at that time. But their status can change in a matter of hours, so if you take a quick test in the morning, you could be contagious by night.
Rapid tests are not always foolproof, sometimes you will get a false negative, but they can be a very useful layer of protection in addition to other precautions.
There were also times when people got a little desperate and stayed home at one of Majumder’s events, only to test positive a day or two later, meaning they got infected during the party.
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And in addition to controlling symptoms, Malani says, “If you add testing and vaccinations to a low-risk outdoor environment, the risk of COVID becomes manageable.”
Keeping your distance still helps a lot. Whether you’re hosting a wedding or a barbecue, this can mean bringing families together at the same table instead of mixing them with other guests and having each table a few feet apart.
The “15-minute rule” was developed to allow contact tracers to reach people who may have been exposed to COVID. If you are in close contact with someone for more than 15 minutes, you are more likely to be sick. But it is also possible to catch the virus in transit, especially indoors.
Last summer, Australian authorities announced a case in which, according to video footage, someone became ill after passing a few seconds in front of an infected person in a shopping mall.
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Whether you get sick depends on several factors: how much virus the person is carrying, what your level of immunity is from a vaccination or previous infection, and most importantly, how much fresh air there is between you.
When it comes to COVID, being outdoors is great for two reasons: There’s a lot of fresh air outside, and you have more space to keep your distance, Milton says.
But if you can’t keep your distance in a crowd, for example at a concert, sporting event or demonstration, wearing a mask greatly reduces the risk of getting sick.
This is especially true if people are yelling and screaming, if you’re around them for a long time, and if you don’t know the status of their vaccinations, tests, and symptoms.
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Two of his colleagues are believed to have contracted COVID outdoors early in the pandemic: one at an outdoor brunch and another standing in line to pick up groceries in the spring of 2020.
The closer you are physically to someone, the greater the risk. If you’re close enough to, say, smell their breath, what they picked for dinner, you’re close enough to inhale virus particles from their breath.
Like chimneys, virus-laden exhalations can “travel outside,” Milton says. This means that it is possible to get infected even if you are not next to someone.
But the odds of getting COVID remotely outside are significantly lower than almost any other form of interaction, like talking more together or gathering indoors.
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“I think the most important thing to remember outside is that while it’s safer, it’s not 100% safe,” says Majumder. “The more congested outer space is, the more it begins to mimic inner space when exposed to ordinary air.”
But he says: “I don’t think masks are necessary outdoors as long as the event is not overcrowded, everyone tests negative, no one has symptoms and everyone is up to date on their vaccinations.”
Even if your event is outdoors, people may need to go indoors for a while to use the bathroom or wash their hands, “something I think a lot of people forget when planning an event,” says Majumder.
Guests should wear a high-quality mask such as an N95 or KF94 whenever they must jump inside. Majumder says hosts can keep masks “stocked and available” for all these indoor tours.
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“Masks are still very important and very effective,” says Malani. Especially if you or someone in your family is at high risk, “keep masks on hand, not so much for outdoor use, but when you go in and out.”
(You can also improve ventilation and filtration indoors by opening doors and windows and using air purifiers in bathrooms or hallways.)
Outdoor tents that do not have space-closing side flaps can help protect from sun or rain and allow air to pass through. But “if the store is closed, it’s not that different from being inside,” Milton says.
And “sometimes meetings end up moving indoors,” Malani notes, due to bad weather, high or low temperatures, or pesky mosquitoes, and “then the risk of infection can vary from low to high.”
Could I Catch Covid At An Outdoor Wedding Or Picnic?
The nature of a large event with many foreign guests is a recipe for infection when there are many cases. Guests are likely to fly, stay in poorly ventilated hotels, eat at restaurants, and gather with family and friends. Although the event you are organizing is low risk in itself, these other activities may not be.
And “the bigger the group, the greater the risk,” Malani says, because there’s a greater chance someone will catch the virus and spread it.
“Prevention means a multi-level approach,” he says. Try to take as many precautions as possible: keep your distance, stay home if you’re sick, get tested and wear a mask if necessary. Do you know what to do if a bug flew into your eye? Read this article to know the correct first aid for foreign particles in the eye.
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