The COVID omicron variant is still spreading. California and Texas are hardest hit, accounting for 11.4 million of the total 74 million cases. Looking for free COVID tests? Avoid these fraudulent sites.
The number of vaccines administered is also rising, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch COVID. Being vaccinated only lowers the severity of the infection if you do happen to catch it.
If you’re worried about being infected, a new study shows some hot spots that you should avoid. If you decide to go out, you might want to pick up one of these free N95 masks given out by the government. Keep reading to find out how to get yours.
Here’s the backstory
Over the last two years, numerous scientific studies examined the likelihood of catching COVID in different scenarios. Several variables either increase or decrease your risk of infection, but most concluded that population density is a significant factor.
This formed the basis of a recent study, calculating your chances of being infected using a sliding scale when a certain percentage of the total population is infectious. The study also correlated the latter with where you are, what you are doing, and whether you are talking.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Colorado Boulder released their findings in a lengthy report. The results shouldn’t be shocking, but where are you most likely to catch COVID? In a poorly-ventilated area with lots of unmasked people. Here are some key takeaways from the study:
- You have less than a 0.001% chance of infection if you wear a mask outdoors with only a few people around you and you remain silent.
- With no face covering while doing heavy exercise, you are 27% likely to be infected if you had contact in a poorly ventilated space for a short time.
- The likelihood of infection is reduced significantly (down to 5%) if the area is well-ventilated.
- You will almost certainly get infected in high occupancy areas like movie theaters or music concerts. Poorly ventilated venues with many masked people singing or shouting gives you an 81% chance.
- Remove the face coverings, and the same venue conditions will produce a 99% likelihood of COVID-19 infection from prolonged contact.
Do masks work?
Since the start of the pandemic, many people have debated the efficacy of cloth or surgical masks. The study somewhat takes the guessing out of it, as there are significant differences in your likelihood of contracting COVID with or without a face covering.
Heavy exercise in a packed, poorly ventilated gym with no face covering carries a 67% chance of infection. By putting on a mask in the same conditions, you reduce the risk to 32%. You have a 24% chance of infection when wearing a mask for indoor music concerts in well-ventilated venues. With no face covering, you have a 54% chance.
Through studies like this one, the Biden administration is making 400 million N95 masks available to citizens for free. The masks are distributed through local pharmacies and healthcare centers and are freely available to help stem the infection tide. This is in conjunction with the free at-home COVID-19 tests.
Where can you get a free mask?
The Department of Health and Human Services will allow every person up to three masks, as new guidance points towards the ineffectiveness of cloth masks.
The free face coverings go to local pharmacies from the 750 million-strong Strategic National Stockpile. While some areas have already received theirs, the majority should be ready for distribution by next week from:
- Southeastern Grocers
- Fresco y Más
- Harveys Supermarket
Healthcare facilities will also give out masks starting this Friday. The first 100 have already received their initial batches. You can find a complete list of participating facilities on the HRSA Health Center COVID-19 N95 Mask Program website.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.