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The COVID Delta variant is circulating. How risky is it to go out on tax-free weekend?

Dr. Stuart Ray, Vice-Chair of Medicine for Data Integrity and Analytics at Johns Hopkins University, shared his tips for staying safe throughout the event.

MARYLAND, USA — Shoppers in Virginia have mostly already taken advantage of their tax-free shopping extravaganza, while Maryland’s kicks off Sunday. 

The sales tax holidays are known for being a time period that allows thousands of customers to rush into local stores, making specific purchases without having to pay state, and occasionally local, sales taxes. 

But along with your wallet and shopping bags, don’t forget those masks.

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The head of the World Health Organization has said that the currently-circulating COVID-19 Delta variant, first seen in India, is “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far,” and warned it is now spreading in at least 85 countries. 

Dr. Stuart Ray, Vice-Chair of Medicine for Data Integrity and Analytics at Johns Hopkins University, shared his tips for staying safe this weekend and his thoughts on how safe going out to crowded stores really is right now. 

“What we've seen is that during the upswing of a surge is the riskiest time, because we tend to underestimate the number of people affected. And we've also not yet seen the full impact on people in terms of hospitalizations, major complications and death,” Dr. Ray warned. 

“When we think about going out now, I think it's a matter of balancing priorities and risks. All of us are dealing with different situations; we may live in different places where rates are a little bit different. But I think that everywhere, the rates of infections are rising, and hospitalizations and deaths are as well.”

Although Dr. Ray said these are largely unvaccinated people, it’s still critical, even if you’re vaccinated, to consider who you could potentially spread the virus to. That’s because a recent report by the CDC casts some doubt on the idea that vaccinated individuals can’t transmit the virus. 

“This might not be the time to take unnecessary risks. And as we prioritize our lives, certainly, people need to get back to school in person to the extent that that is possible. They need to be able to go to work and not have it interrupted. So getting an infection through an optional activity like hunting for bargains might not be the thing to do right now.”

Dr. Ray said precautions are a good idea, even if you’ve already gotten a vaccine: “It's not a bulletproof vest,” he said. 

“I think that people need to realize that this is a risky time. We all need some activities; there is a balance to be struck. But you should realize that if you're vaccinated, that reduces your risk for severe complications, but may still allow you to spread it to others.”

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