As states and businesses contend with opening back up and closing again in light of our continuing battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to determine what activities are safe. Sometimes, coronavirus face mask protection and hand sanitizer aren't enough; sometimes, it's better to just skip an event for your safety. With that said, here's how to weigh the risk of different activities.
Think About Your Activity In Terms of Time, Space, and People
Are you wondering whether an event in the near future is worth attending? Dr. Aaron Hamilton of the Cleveland Clinic says to examine it through three factors: time, space, and people.
Consider how much time you'll spend at this event or activity. The less time you're there, the more you limit your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Is this event taking place indoors or outside? Evidence has shown that it's much safer to be outside than inside when it comes to coronavirus exposure risk. But that doesn't necessarily mean the risk drops to zero.
If your activity is indoors, then you should figure out how enclosed and ventilated the space is. Also, don't be afraid to inquire about if the space has an occupancy limit. Together, these two factors will give you a good idea of how easy or hard it will be to maintain an appropriate distance from other attendees.
Are the other people you'll be interacting with at this event following safety guidelines? This includes but is not limited to:
- Wearing a face mask.
- Social distancing at least six feet from others.
- Practicing good hand hygiene and frequent sanitization.
- Not touching common surfaces of objects.
- Staying home if they feel sick.
Measure the Risk on a Spectrum
With all the factors we mentioned above, it can be tricky to evaluate the coronavirus risk of an activity or event. Dr. Hamilton recommends thinking of it as a spectrum: "It’s less about safe vs. not safe, and more about layers of risk. Everybody will have to do a risk assessment for themselves and determine where they’re comfortable and what safety guidelines they’re going to follow."
For a reference point, on the absolute safest end of the spectrum is staying home with your family. On the other end are large, indoor gatherings. Obviously, certain types of activities are much riskier than others. For example, an outdoor picnic with your family members who are all following safety measures carries much less risk than a densely populated indoor concert. With that said, it's also important for you to consider how often you choose to participate in riskier events.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How long will I be there?
- Who will I interact with?
- What am I not comfortable with?
- What steps shall I take to protect myself?
After assessing the risk, if you make the decision to participate in an event, it's vital that you comply with safety guidelines to help protect everyone, including yourself.
5 Examples of Popular Activities
Here are five common activities to give you a good idea of what to consider when weighing coronavirus risk. (Please note: These risk levels are estimates. The actual risk also depends on factors outside of your control and aspects that may not be obvious to you before you attend the event. With that said, never hesitate to leave an event if you feel unsafe.)
1. Getting a Haircut (Low to Medium Risk)
Call your salon or barbershop ahead of time to verify that they're following proper safety guidelines, such as requiring everyone to wear a face mask, sanitizing between clients, and spacing out people. Also, ask yourself how often you'll be frequenting this business.
2. Going to the Gym (High Risk)
The safest place for you to exercise during this pandemic is at home or outside. With that said, returning to the gym is a personal decision. If you choose to go to a gym, you should try to minimize your time in the facility to reduce your exposure risk. Get in, complete your work out, and get out.
As with our other activities, check ahead of time to ensure that proper sanitization and social distancing guidelines are being followed. And if you must go to the gym, then consider visiting one that has open windows or garage doors for more fresh air to circulate through the facility.
3. Visiting a Doctor (Low Risk)
Many people assume that a doctor's office may be one of the worst places to go during this pandemic. But clinics, hospitals, and emergency departments are among the institutions that are taking the most precaution to keep their patients and staff safe. Whether it's emergency care of elective procedures, medical facilities should be following the most up-to-date safety protocols. Several healthcare systems are even requiring that patients get tested for the coronavirus a few days prior to a visit or procedure.
If the thought of going to the doctor these days scares you, then you should consider a telehealth appointment. These are great for frequent visitors, such as those with chronic medical conditions, and those who want to do everything they can to stay safe during this pandemic.
4. Eating at a Restaurant (Low to High Risk)
As far as spectrums go, restaurants run the gamut. Having a meal outside on a patio away from other dining guests carries much less risk than eating indoors or visiting the bar. Many restaurants are trying their best to follow guidelines such as spacing out tables, requiring staff to wear masks, and even installing physical barriers between tables.
Unfortunately, eating and drinking mean that you'll be taking your face mask off. Call ahead to find out the protocols that your restaurant of choice is employing, and really consider if it's worth the risk — takeout or delivery are other options to consider.
5. Flying on an Airplane (High Risk)
Simply put, you should avoid as much unnecessary travel as you can. If you absolutely must board an airplane, absolutely follow safety guidelines. Wear a face mask, limit what you touch, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and keep a good distance from others whenever you can.
Weigh the Risks Objectively and Prioritize Safety
No matter what activity you're weighing the risk of, always take the same coronavirus safety precautions that you would anywhere else. And if you can't take these precautions, skip the event. Remember, these protocols are there to protect you and your loved ones. As inconvenient as they may seem, it never hurts to be extra safe.
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