Why does coronavirus thrive in bars?

As coronavirus cases increase in parts of the country, the bars are increasingly under scrutiny for their role in the spread of COVID-19 since the end of the national blockade.

Florida and Texas governors closed bars Friday in their states to reduce the infection rate.

In Idaho, bars in Ada County will not be allowed to remain open after the area has seen a “group of illnesses” linked to people who reported going out to bars and nightclubs while they were infectious without knowing it.

Officials have been alarmed by incidents like the one in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where a group of at least a dozen friends said they all tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting a recently reopened pub to celebrate one of their birthdays.

So why does the insect thrive in bars?

There are three main ingredients: people, proximity and alcohol, said Dr. Marissa Levine, director of the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practices at the University of South Florida at Tampa.

“For the virus, it is a wonderful (combination); not so good for us, “Levine said TODAY.

“Setting up the inner bar is really difficult, especially when you have a lot of illnesses in your community … It’s much more difficult in that environment to put the kind of reengineering that we’ve seen in traditional restaurants and other facilities.”

Dr. Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha, chief of the infectious diseases division of the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called some states’ decision to close bars “an excellent move.”

“I think it is a place that is very worrying,” said Bruno-Murtha, adding that she is always amazed by the images of the bar customers without costumes: “It is very puzzling to me when I see those photos on the news or on the social networks”.

Opportunities to spread

A pub may be closely watching its occupancy rate and providing opportunities for social distancing, but customers could still spread the disease, Levine said.

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, and transmission works best when people are close to each other over a period of time, the typical scene in a bar, which is generally smaller and narrower than a restaurant.

Bar patrons group together to enjoy each other’s company instead of staying 6 feet away and drinking alcohol, reducing inhibitions and making people think less clearly.

“It may no longer be his top priority to maintain social distance or even think about the virus,” Levine said.

“We’re also talking generally about younger clientele, and people at a younger age generally feel more invincible.”


It is difficult to drink while wearing a mask, which is why many customers skip the covers on their faces. They also speak loudly because the bars are often loud, making the virus much more likely to spread. A recent study found that “speech droplets” produced by people who may be infected but show no symptoms can remain in the air for several minutes. Loud speech produces more drops than a normal tone of voice.

Another factor is the informal nature of the bars. States are using contact tracing to limit the spread, but when you strike up a conversation with someone in a bar, you often don’t know who that person is or how to contact them, Bruno-Murtha said.

If you want to go to a bar:

Both experts said they would not be comfortable going to a bar at this time. But if someone insisted on going, he offered the following precautions:

Do your own risk assessment first: What are the chances that you could experience serious complications and even death from COVID-19? Even if you don’t have risk factors, what are your chances of infecting friends or family members you live with who are most vulnerable? “You can’t think of yourself,” said Levine. Skip going to higher risk settings if you or your loved ones could be at risk.

Keep in mind the basics: Wear a face covering when you’re not drinking, keep physical distance, don’t let your guard down, and practice good hand hygiene.

Look for an outdoor bar or one with a patio, terrace, or balcony: Outdoor environments where the virus is diluted and there is room for social distance have a lower risk potential for COVID-19 than indoor spaces, where ventilation can spread the bug. Ideally, go during the day when there is still ultraviolet light to help kill any viruses that may be circulating, Bruno-Murtha advised. Stay outside even when you go at night. “In general, everything outdoors is safer, but you still need to maintain physical distance and be prepared to cover your face if that doesn’t happen,” Levine said.

Do not share drinks: It could be risky, especially if you are doing it with people you do not know and have not asked what they have been doing to prevent COVID-19. You can have a drink that may have the virus in the glass or put an infectious stain in your mouth.

Consider going to the bathroom with a mask on: There has been some concern that toilet flushes may aerosolize the virus.

Limit your alcohol consumption: Promise yourself to stop at a certain number of drinks to stay in control and stay safe.

“I really miss being able to hang out with friends and be social,” said Bruno-Murtha. But until you feel comfortable, you will skip the bar.