As countries and organizations struggle with opening back up and closing again in light of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, it can be tough to know which activities are safe to partake in. To make matters more complex, sometimes, coronavirus face mask protection and hand sanitizer aren't enough; sometimes, the best thing to do for your health is skip an event entirely.
But how do you know what's safe and what's not? Here's how to easily evaluate the risk of different activities.
Consider Time, Space, and People
If you're one of the many people wondering if an event is worth attending during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Aaron Hamilton of the Cleveland Clinic has some advice; examine it from three aspects: time, space, and people.
Think about 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.
Do you know if the event you're considering is being held indoors or outdoors? Evidence has shown that it's much safer to be outside than inside when it comes to coronavirus exposure risk. It's important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean the risk drops to zero.
Is your activity indoors? Then it's imperative that you figure out how enclosed and ventilated the space is. Don't be afraid to call up the owners or managers of the venue to see if it has an occupancy limit. This information can give you a good idea of how easy or hard it will be to maintain an appropriate distance from other attendees.
Will the other attendees of this event be following proper safety guidelines? In terms of the coronavirus, 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.
Risk Is a Spectrum
Even though we're only focusing on three factors, it can still be difficult 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."
On the safest side of the spectrum is forgoing the event and 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, consider how often you choose to participate in riskier events.
Here are some questions to help you figure out where your event falls on the spectrum of risk:
- 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?
Once you've evaluated 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. This includes yourself, your loved ones, and the strangers all around you.
Let's Evaluate 5 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. Haircuts (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. Exercising at the Gym (High Risk)
Unsurprisingly, the safest place for you to exercise during the COVID-19 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, strive to minimize your time in the facility. This drastically reduces 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. Doctor Appointments (Low Risk)
Is a clinic or minor care facility a bad place to visit during the coronavirus pandemic? Many people would assume so. But it turns out that clinics, hospitals, and emergency departments are 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. Dining at a Restaurant (Low to High Risk)
Restaurants run the gamut on the spectrum of risk. 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. Efforts include mandatory mask-wearing, spaced out tables, and installed physical barriers.
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. Air Travel (High Risk)
Try to avoid as much unnecessary travel as you can. If you absolutely must board an airplane, follow safety guidelines closely. 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.
Always Put Safety First
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, safety should always come first.
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