What's The Risk Going Grocery Shopping Unmasked?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 10:27 AM, May 19, 2021

We know more science about the COVID vaccines and the CDC’s relaxed their masking guidelines in certain situations. So you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19. 

We asked the experts, what’s the risk of getting COVID-19 from a trip to the grocery store?

Their take: The risk of contracting COVID-19 is low risk if you’re unmasked and fully vaccinated.

The risk of going to the grocery store unmasked, if you are unvaccinated would be higher. You could definitely have a chance of being exposed to somebody who was unknowingly contagious with COVID-19," Katie Cary, assistant vice president of infection prevention for HCA Continental Division, told Newsy. 

"It's also a factor in how much virus stays in the air from those who are unmasked. So a large chain store may have a much larger are with higher ceilings and more ventilation and truly just more air airflow in there. And 20 people in a large store is very different than 20 people in, say, a corner gas station that's very small and enclosed," said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, associate medical director of infection control and epidemiology at Nebraska Medical Center.

"Walking by somebody who's infected — masks or not — it’s going to be low risk of transmission. Short of somebody directly coughing or sneezing right in your face, which is unlikely if you're on the move," said Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary critical care specialist at Cleveland Clinic. 

For more answers on what is low, medium, or high risk, visit