If you're craving a cocktail, break out the shaker and a recipe book and make your own drinks at home, because going to a bar during COVID-19 just isn't worth the risk. Infectious-disease experts agree that, even if bars in your area are open, it's best to stay away in order to protect yourself and others from spreading the highly contagious coronavirus.
William Haseltine, PhD, chair of the US-China Health Summit, founder of Harvard University's cancer and HIV/AIDS research departments, and author of A Family Guide to COVID: Questions and Answers for Parents, Grandparents, and Children, told POPSUGAR that bars are one of the most dangerous places for transmission of COVID-19. "They're often small, they're often crowded, and people are disinhibited by alcohol, and droplets and aerosols can hang in the air and infect you through your nose, eyes, or mouth," Dr. Haseltine said. He added that, in any area where there's COVID-19 infection, there's really no way to protect yourself at a bar, so it's best to simply not go.
"I'm pessimistic that going to bars will be anything less than a high-risk activity for the foreseeable future," said Mark Cameron, PhD, an infectious-disease expert and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Cameron told POPSUGAR that increased testing has helped us understand the presence of the virus — and, unfortunately, there's little-to-no good news right now. "Hotspot states and cities can have positive COVID-19 test rates of anywhere from 10 to over 20 percent," he said. This means that one in 10, or maybe even one in five, of the people you encounter in a bar may be infected. Dr. Cameron also noted that infections occur easily in close-contact settings where mask use is a problem. A bar creates the perfect storm because masks need to be removed in order to drink, and it's difficult to enforce proper social distancing.
We're no longer under stay-at-home orders, so if CDC guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing are followed, we can socialize in certain settings. But Dr. Cameron emphasized that, as the US sets records in terms of its peak of new daily COVID-19 cases, bars aren't a setting where sufficient precautions can be taken in order to avoid infection. When asked what factors should be taken into account when deciding whether to go to a bar, Dr. Haseltine summed it up in one sentence: "Whether [you] want to be infected or not."
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.