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COVID-19 hot spots: Neighborhood bars

Bars are emerging as hot spots for the spread of the coronavirus. The combination of many people talking to each other in close proximity indoors provides an easy route for the virus to transmit from one person to another.

Just one example: A brewpub in East Lansing, Michigan, was linked to at least 107 coronavirus cases in late June. The people infected include 95 primary cases—people who went to the bar during the exposure period—and 12 secondary cases. Secondary cases are people who didn't go to the bar but came into contact with someone who did.

Avoid the 3 C's

In a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a review of 61 clusters of COVID-19 cases in Japan found that 16% were linked to restaurants or bars. The researchers concluded that infections were riskiest in places that met the "three C's":
  • Closed spaces with poor ventilation.
  • Crowded places.
  • Close-contact settings.

You could add a fourth "C" to that list—consumption of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can impair your judgement. That could lead to relaxing of social distancing behaviors.

Practice good judgment

According to CDC, the more closely and longer you interact with others, the higher the risk for the spread of the coronavirus. CDC suggests asking yourself these questions before going out:

  • How many people will you interact with? More people means more risk. Interacting with new people—those who don't live with you—also raises your risk.
  • Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others?
  • Will you be outdoors or indoors? Indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces.
  • How long will you be interacting with others? The longer your interaction, the higher your risk.
  • Is the coronavirus spreading in your community?
  • What are the local orders in your community? Are there stay-at-home orders?
  • Will people be wearing face masks where you're going?
  • Are you at high risk for severe illness? Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from the virus.
  • Do you live with someone at high risk for severe illness?

For now, it may be best to avoid high-risk places like bars and nightclubs. If you do plan to gather with people outside your household, you may be better off staying outside and keeping the gathering small.

Check out more safety tips in the Coronavirus topic center.

Reviewed 7/21/2020

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