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COVID Risk: What Activities Should You Do During The Pandemic?

22nd September 2020 Print

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are receiving a lot of mixed messages. Businesses and schools are reopening around the country, New York City plans to allow indoor dining starting at the end of September, and yet an average of more than 35,000 new cases are diagnosed each day. It’s no surprise, then, that many people are suffering from decision fatigue. Overwhelmed by information and unprepared to appropriately gauge risk, people want to know what activities are safe to participate in and what they should avoid. 

Though there’s no perfect way to evaluate risk – every situation is unique, dependent on such factors as local infection numbers, participant density, and individual vulnerability, among other elements – there are a few useful guidelines. If you’re struggling to make sense of what activities you can enjoy safely, these basics can help you make informed decisions. 

Enjoy The Great Outdoors

One thing we know for certain about COVID-19 transmission is that risk is significantly decreased outdoors because there’s excellent ventilation, causing virus-carrying droplets to quickly disperse. If you want to spend time with friends, then, consider a socially distanced walk or hike. You can even picnic together with minimal risk as long as you stay six feet apart and don’t share food. Generally speaking, as long as you can keep your distance, outdoor activities are safe and a great social outlet when other options are limited.

Take Care Of The Essentials

While social activities are good for our mental health, they’re ultimately optional. Other activities, including grocery shopping and going to the doctor, are more essential – but that doesn’t automatically make them safe. So, what’s the best way to tackle the essentials? 

As with all other activities, be sure to wear a mask and keep six feet from others when attending to essential activities. This can be hard in some environments, but your goal should be to avoid lingering in other people’s 6-foot bubble. It’s okay to pass close to someone briefly, but don’t stay and strike up a conversation in the produce section.

When it comes to activities like going to the doctor, many offices have switched to telehealth visits whenever possible. Take advantage of these, but also know that you can trust your provider’s office to act with appropriate caution. Expect that all offices will require masking and will regularly sanitize the space. Doctor’s offices are also scheduling patients further apart to prevent crowded waiting rooms, and many will allow you to avoid the waiting room by checking in from your car and coming in when it’s time for your appointment. If you’re at high risk of COVID-19 complications, you may be able to request an appointment earlier in the day to minimize the number of people who have passed through the space.

Transit And Travel

The general consensus on travel is to avoid leaving your immediate area right now. Many states, especially those with low COVID-19 rates, have even instituted strict travel restrictions, requiring testing and/or a 14-day quarantine for those entering from areas with more infections. In Massachusetts, for example, travelers who fail to quarantine or prove a negative test, can face a $500 per day fine. This include residents returning home from visiting other states, as well as individuals visiting from other areas. Air travel specifically is considered a high-risk activity, but even traveling in a private vehicle can present problems if you need to stop at rest areas.

Although travel is generally discouraged, it’s understandable that people need to return to work or run errands, including grocery shopping or going to the doctor. For those who don’t have a car or can’t drive, this may mean taking public transit – but is that safe? Luckily, public transit use is largely down, but it’s still risky. Be sure to wear a mask, carry hand sanitizer, and leave extra time so that you can wait for a less crowded bus or train. Operators are doing everything they can to minimize risk, but with fewer lockdown restrictions, travelers will have to work harder to protect themselves.

The Verdict: Putting Safety First

As the United States nears 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, it’s clear that precautions are still a key part of everyday life. While outdoor activities are generally safe with added social distancing, other activities should be minimized, which means fewer shopping trips, avoiding travel and meals out, and staying home whenever possible. This pandemic won’t last forever, and areas of the world with stricter rules have been able to resume normal activities. That time will come here, as well, but only with everyone’s cooperation.