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How to Protect Yourself at Large Gatherings

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 25, 2022

As COVID-19 case numbers dropped and a vaccine became available, concert tours were rescheduled, the lights on Broadway went back on, and sports teams returned to stadiums and arenas.

You’re eager to get back to your favorite events, but you wonder: Is it safe?

The answer depends on where you live, your health risks, and how many people will be there. If you do plan to go to a concert or other large gathering, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

How Safe Are Large Events?

The COVID-19 virus spreads easily through the air between people who are in close contact, meaning 6 feet or less apart. Even if you're not right next to someone who's sick, the virus can hang in the air of indoor spaces for up to 3 hours.

So being around a large group of people, like you would at a concert or convention hall, increases your risk of being exposed. And the Omicron variant spreads more easily than earlier versions of the virus.

Many venues require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. These measures lower your risk of being infected but they don't eliminate it. Even people who are vaccinated or don't have symptoms can spread the virus.

Outdoor events are safer. The air keeps COVID-19 droplets moving, so you're less likely to breathe in enough of the virus to get you sick. But you'll still want to keep your distance from other people, which can be hard to do at a crowded concert.

Should you go or sit it out? Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

  • How many people will be there? The larger the group, the more people you'll be exposed to and the greater your risk of getting COVID will be.
  • Are you or anyone going with you at increased risk for COVID complications because of a medical condition or weakened immune system?
  • Are you fully vaccinated? Did you get your booster, too?
  • Can you wear a mask at the event?
  • Will other people at the event be vaccinated and masked?
  • How much is COVID-19 spreading in the area?

What to Do Before You Go

If you decide to go, here are ways to manage safety:

Look at the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker. It’ll give you an idea about the number of cases in your area. If transmission is high or vaccination rates are low, you might want to change your plans.

Look up your state's COVID rules. Are they limiting the number of people who can attend events? Do they require proof of vaccination or masks at large gatherings?

Check out the venue. Is it outdoors? That's safer than indoors. If it’s indoors, will you be able to stay at least 6 feet away from people you don't know? How good is the ventilation? Does the venue require proof of vaccination, negative COVID test results, or masks to attend? Your risk of getting COVID is lower if everyone at the event is vaccinated and masked.

Make sure everyone in your group ages 5 and up is fully vaccinated. Being fully vaccinated lowers the likelihood of serious complications if you do get sick. Be sure to get a booster shot, too, if you’re eligible.

Get tested before you go. This limits the opportunity to spread COVID-19 to others. If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, don't go to the event.

Protecting Yourself at the Event

The best way to protect yourself and others is to wear a mask indoors. You can also wear one outdoors if you can't stay at least 3 feet away from other people.

The masks that protect best have two or more layers of fabric. Check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin, with no gaps around the edges.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If you don't have access to soap, bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

After the Event

You're at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 whenever you're in close contact with people who aren't from your household. Watch for symptoms, especially in the first 3 to 7 days after the event.

If you find out that you were close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, get tested at least 5 days after your contact with them. Check with your local health department for instructions on quarantining.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: David Humphreys / Getty Images

SOURCES:

Accelerate SC: "Guidelines for Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events."

CDC: "Activities and Gatherings." "Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know." "Small and Large Gatherings." "Types of Masks and Respirators." "Your Guide to Masks."

Cleveland Clinic: "With the COVID-19 Delta Variant, Are Concerts Safe to Attend?"

Harvard Medical School: "Coronavirus Resource Center."

Marin Health & Human Services: "Celebrate Safely."

Mayo Clinic: "Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Mount Sinai: "How to Attend Large Events Safely -- Both Indoors and Outside."

World Health Organization: "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How is it transmitted?"

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