September 16, 2020 -- People who attend a place of worship often may be more likely to test positive for COVID-19, according to a recent study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The study asked more than 1,000 Maryland residents about their social distancing practices in late June. People who frequently attended church were 16 times more likely to report that they had tested positive. People who used public transportation were 4 times more likely to report they tested positive. Those who said they followed strict, outdoor-only social distancing were a tenth as likely to report ever testing positive.
“Our findings support the idea that if you’re going out, you should practice social distancing to the extent possible because it does seem strongly associated with a lower chance of getting infected,” Sunil Solomon, the senior author of the study, said in a statement. Solomon is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,
About 5%, or 55 of the study participants, had tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and 18 people tested positive in the two weeks before the survey.
Overall, spending more time in public was most strongly associated with having a history of COVID-19 infection. People who took public transportation more than three times in the previous two weeks were more likely to test positive, as were people who visited a place of worship three or more times in the previous two weeks.
The research team also found that people who faced higher risks for serious COVID-19 consequences were more likely to practice social distancing. About 81% of people over 65 said they always followed social distancing guidelines during outdoor activities, as compared with 58% of people in the 18-24 age group.
The research team is now conducting similar surveys in other states.
“Younger people in the state were less likely to reduce their infection risk with social distancing — and a month later a large proportion of the SARS-CoV-2 infections detected in Maryland were among younger people,” Solomon said. “It points to the possibility of using these quick, inexpensive surveys too predict where outbreaks are going to happen based on behaviors.”
SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.