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9 places doctors hesitate to go during the COVID-19 pandemic

9Health Medical Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said there are some places that are particularly concerning for spread of the novel coronavirus.

COLORADO, USA — Restaurants, gyms and churches are among the places doctors recommend individuals, especially seniors, avoid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

9Health Medical Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said that with 1-in-41 Coloradans infected and the mortality rate for seniors so high — 90% of deaths attributed to COVID-19 occur in patients over age 65 — it's hard to know which destinations are "COVID-free."

"If you walk into a place with at least 41 people in it, chances are very good at least one of them has COVID and you are risking exposure, " she said.

Kohli put together a list of nine places that doctors would hesitate to go during the pandemic:

  1. Small, crowded restaurants
  2. Bars
  3. Churches
  4. Gyms
  5. Public pools
  6. Spas
  7. Concerts
  8. Movie theaters
  9. Amusement parks.

"They are all crowded places, there is an inability to socially distance, we are engaging in activities that generate a lot of droplets, and the duration of contact with those droplets is high," Kohli said.

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Kohli said another location to avoid, if possible, is a public restroom. Kholi said she left it off of the main list because sometimes there is no other choice. But, she added, that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. 

"They are generally small places, sometimes very crowded, with a lot of tough points," Kohli said. "The ventilation isn't always good and science tells us when people flush toilets, they aerosolize thousands of tiny droplets." 

Kohli said it's best to avoid touching things in a public restroom, if possible.

"You want to make sure to get some kind of a barrier protection, either gloves or [a] paper towel, when you are opening the handle or you're closing the latch on the door," Kohli said. "I usually wear my sunglasses to protect my eyes and protect anything from coming in.

"Of course, I have my mask on, and I really try to go into a stall that no one has been in for several minutes because that really minimizes that risk of those aerosolized particles potentially affecting me."

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The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines for close contact is 15 minutes or less than 6 feet to risk infection.

Kohli said that's a very general guideline, and there is nothing magical about 15 minutes.

"Really, you can get infected with the virus in under a minute," she said. "So any contact confers risk. And if it's a short period of high risk contact, meaning without a mask or with somebody who is very contagious, you can catch the virus very quickly."

She said people should avoid the thought process that spending 10 minutes with someone who has COVID-19 instead of a full 15 minutes means they won't get infected.

"That's a very uncertain guideline and the virus is, as we all know, highly contagious," Kohli said.

The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have also put together some general guidelines on places to avoid in the pandemic. 

> The CDC's guidelines can be found here.

> WHO's guidelines can be found here.


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