News Flash

Health - Public Health News

Posted on: June 25, 2020

How safe is it? A guide to COVID-19 risk

Each of us looks at risks differently. Some like to play poker or go bungee jumping, others do not. 

When it comes to COVID-19, the risks you take affect you personally, and they also affect your community. It’s not just about preventing ourselves from getting sick, it’s also about avoiding the risk of getting other people sick.

Phase 2 of the Safe Start reopening plan gives us new opportunities and new choices to do some of the things we love. But different activities carry different amounts of risk. We’ve pulled together this list to help you think about how risky some things are or aren’t. Keep in mind that this is just a guide.Image showing risk gradient

Assessing Your Risk

Calculating your risk isn’t always simple. For example, the risk of visiting a museum or a beach will depend on how crowded it is. Churches and gyms can be safe too, if good social distancing is used and there are hygiene facilities available.

Think critically about activities and locations when you’re deciding what to do. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will I be able to maintain six feet of distance from others?
  • Is there a good source of fresh air, or will I be sharing air with lots of other people?
  • Will I need to touch surfaces that have been touched by others who haven’t been able to wash their hands? How many others have touched those surfaces since they’ve been cleaned? How frequently will I be able to wash my own hands?
  • Will other people around be wearing masks?
  • Will people be shouting or singing?

What Affects Your Risk

Air - The virus that causes COVID-19 virus is mostly spread by tiny respiratory droplets that float in the air after someone sneezes, coughs, or speaks. If you’re breathing the same air as others who may be infected, you are running a high risk. And just because people feel well it doesn’t mean that they aren’t potentially contagious. 

Time - The length of time you are around people matters too. A quick walk by someone, especially outside, is less dangerous than lengthy face-to-face conversations. 

Distance - Most virus-containing respiratory droplets will not travel more than six feet from a person’s mouth when they’re talking. Keeping a minimum of six feet between individuals greatly reduces the risk of person-to-person spread. You can add a few feet to be extra cautious.

Masks - Face coverings are important. When you wear a mask it helps protect bystanders. And they work even better when more of us wear them. A mask is no guarantee of safety, but your risk goes up significantly if people around you are not wearing masks. Likewise, if you are not wearing a mask, you are putting people around you at greater risk.

So when you leave your home, do it as safely as you can. If you’re not feeling well, please don’t go out. If you have any symptoms at all, contact a healthcare provider to get tested so you can know for sure.


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