Social distancing still matters to reduce COVID-19 risk, shows new study

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The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched into 2022. More and more people receive vaccines worldwide.

Is it necessary to keep social distancing or pay special attention to gatherings?

In a new study from the University of Southern California, researchers found that individual health behaviors are still a key factor in the risk of COVID-19 diagnosis.

The study reveals how an individual’s physical distancing behaviors, such as avoiding large gatherings, can significantly decrease the risk of COVID-19 diagnosis, even in the presence of other structural risk factors, such as high local infection rates.

The findings emphasize the importance of individual behaviors for preventing COVID-19, which may be relevant in contexts with low vaccination.

In the current study, the team examined the responses from the COVID-19 survey of the Understanding America Study (UAS) from June 2020 through April 2021.

The UAS includes a panel of approximately 9,500 respondents representing the entire United States and is administered by the USC Center for Economic and Social Research.

The researchers found that individuals who reported attending large gatherings were more than 40% more likely to have been diagnosed with COVID-19 than those who did not report unsafe behaviors, even after adjusting for demographic factors and local case rates.

In respondents who took part in more than one of the risky behaviors included in the survey, each additional risk taken increased the likelihood of COVID-19 diagnosis by another 8 to 9%.

Even among those who avoided risks involving large gatherings, taking part in smaller gatherings still increased the risk of diagnosis by 30%.

This is consistent with earlier research suggesting that small birthday gatherings were associated with household COVID-19 infections.

Even with research into treatments and a push for widespread vaccination, the study highlights the continuing importance of individuals reducing their risk through behavior, especially physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings, she said.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about new drug that could prevent COVID-19, and new COVID-19 vaccine booster can effectively prevent disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about antibodies that can neutralize Omicron, and results showing this drug treatment may prevent COVID death and lung damage.

The study was conducted by Theresa Andrasfay et al., and published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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