How to manage your virus risk

by David Leonhardt, The New York Times

This is a three-step guide to COVID-19 risk minimization. It’s based on a New York Times survey of 700 epidemiologists and experts.

1. There is one behavior you should try to eliminate, without exception: Spending time in a confined space (outside your household) where anyone is unmasked.

Don’t eat indoors at a restaurant or friend’s house. Don’t have close, unmasked conversations anywhere, even outdoors. If you must fly, try to not to eat or drink on the plane. If you’re going to work, don’t have lunch in the same room as colleagues. Group lunches have led to outbreaks at hospitals and elsewhere.

2. This next set of behaviors is best to minimize if you can’t avoid it: Spending extended time in indoor spaces, even with universal masking. Masks aren’t perfect. If you can work out at home rather than at a gym — or do your job or attend religious services remotely — you’re reducing your risk.

3. Now the better news: Several activities are less risky than some people fear. You don’t need to wear a mask when you go for a walk or a jog. You can take a bike ride without a mask. “I consider keeping six feet distant outdoors more important than wearing a mask,”. “If I had a birthday candle in my hand and you’re too far away to blow it out, I can’t inhale whatever you exhale.”

You can also feel OK about doing many errands. About 90 percent of the epidemiologists in our survey have recently visited a grocery store, a pharmacy or another store. Just wear a mask, stay distant from others and wash your hands afterward.

The big picture: I find it helpful to think about the notion of a personal risk budget. I don’t spend any of my risk budget on supermarket shopping, because grocery delivery works well for my family. But I do take occasional unmasked, distant walks with one or two friends. They help keep me sane as we head into a long, very hard winter.

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