By Heather Janssen

PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) – The countdown until Christmas continues. With only two days to go, many people headed out to stores to grab last-minute gifts – but in the middle of the pandemic, is it risky to head to the mall?

Past the point of ordering online, more people have to shop in-person if they haven’t finished their Christmas list. Health experts say the more people you’re around, and the closer you are – the more of a risk there may be.

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“We’ve waited until the very end,” said Jacqueline de Brito, who was shopping on Wednesday.

Though she said, not without some extra thought.

“We’re trying to do our best to stay indoors and gauging whether it’s a good idea to leave the house or not,” de Brito said.

She felt comfortable as customers were counted in. People kept their distance and wore their masks, but that may not be found everywhere.

CBS13 asked UC Davis Health’s Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease expert, what the risks may be when it comes to holiday shopping at the moment?

“It’s not zero risk – being indoors,” Dr. Blumberg said. “Social distancing and wearing a mask decreases your risk of transmission but it doesn’t eliminate it.”

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He said it’s hard to measure how risky it may be, as it all depends on the environment a person is in. In a time of high transmission, he said it’s important to avoid standing in close proximity to crowds.

“If you’re with 15 people and close to them for 1 minute each, that still counts as 15 minutes of being exposed to somebody,” Dr. Blumberg said.

More from CBS Sacramento:

At the Roseville Galleria, one restaurant was still open and serving people inside and out despite the state requiring otherwise. Several people waited in lines and stood on social distance stickers to get into stores. Angelik Gonzalez, a shopper, noticed some people standing close in the common areas.

“Some people didn’t seem to follow that constantly,” Gonzalez said. “But it’s mainly little groups standing in one.”

With people wearing masks and stores letting in a few people at a time, she said she still felt safe.

“It’s mainly just the lines that are ‘ugh’ so annoying,” she said. “But it’s understandable.”

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Even though online ordering may not be available in many cases, health officials still suggest utilizing a store’s curbside pickup option if they have one to avoid the risks altogether.

Heather Janssen