• All 50 states in the US have now reopened to some degree, after more than two months of gradually tightening lockdowns and restrictions as the coronavirus’ US toll has worsened.
  • There’s fear among public health experts that Americans’ behavior over the Memorial Day weekend could cause a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
  • Here are the places and situations to avoid to keep yourself safe from the coronavirus.

As the coronavirus’ US toll has worsened over the last couple of months, we’ve slowly begun to learn more about this virus that has infected more than 1.6 million people in the US and killed almost 98,000 people as of Monday morning. That’s according to the latest grim statistics from Johns Hopkins University, which also don’t speak to the more than 36 million people who’ve been thrown out of work because of the economic devastation caused by the virus.

Since the onset of the pandemic in the US, we’ve also gradually learned what actions we can take to minimize its spread — as well as our chances of catching the COVID-19 virus. That includes things like regularly washing our hands, wearing a face mask when we’re in public, and practicing social distancing.

With the US death toll from the virus now just shy of 100,000, there’s starting to be some concern that enough Americans aren’t taking the crisis sufficiently seriously that it’s going to cause the number of infections to surge again — just as millions of Americans are either traveling today or engaged in Memorial Day celebrations. Two behaviors that don’t exactly line up with the kinds of practices that health experts are urging Americans to follow to keep the spread of the coronavirus under control.

Which perhaps begs the question, what’s our best understanding at the moment of where the riskiest places are (and what the riskiest situations are) for catching the deadly virus?

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth associate professor of biology Erin Bromage, who runs a blog focused on coronavirus-related facts and myths, sat down with CBS News ahead of the Memorial Day holiday to talk about the riskiest (and safest) places and situations that Americans should be aware of. Bottom line: “Every interaction that we have with another person, another household, gives an opportunity for the virus to find a new home, and to get into a new household,” Bromage warned.

Here’s how you gradually climb up the scale of risk, as he explains it:

Being outdoors or alone with people who’ve been quarantined with you is the “least-concerning place to be.” If you’re still outdoors but introduce members of another family into the equation, bringing them into proximity with yourself and your friends and loved ones, you’ve now introduced an element of risk.

Once you move indoors, you’re now in the riskiest “place,” Bromage says, because indoors is typically where you have lots of people (conducive to spread of the virus) as well as “poor airflow” (also conducive to the virus’ spread).

But even indoors, as we mentioned for those times when you’re outside, there’s a scale of risk you can gradually climb. If you’re in a quiet, near-empty place like a library, the risk is low compared to somewhere like a crowded bar, where people tend to be in close proximity and having face-to-face conversations. “As soon as those things happen, you’ve got to speak louder, which puts more force into the air that comes out, which means more droplets come out,” Bromage explains, adding that also means you’re “putting more virus into the air.”

This is also why solo activities outdoors, like running or bike-riding, are low-risk, he continues.

Pay attention today, as you’re out and about doing anything from shopping to engaging in Memorial Day celebrations to see how people around you are behaving. Because no matter what you’re doing, Bromage insists that face masks are one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and others from the virus.

“Taken together with all the other bits that we do, masks are an important piece of this puzzle to stop this virus getting into you and into your home,” he said.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.