Imagine perfect social distancing: Alone in an Alpine meadow, twirling joyfully, surrounded by mountains, trees, and edelweiss. Real-life social distancing? More like trying to twirl away from the guy who’s taking up the entire frozen pizza section at the grocery store without knocking over the Oreo display.
Though we’re months into the pandemic, it can still be difficult to figure out how safe or risky any specific activity might be. That’s why MIT’s own Tim the Beaver has teamed up with MIT Medical help you learn the do-re-mi’s of COVID-19 risk assessment.
Determining your risk is easy as A-B-C. Or five C’s, actually — four to avoid, and one to consider:
- AVOID Closed spaces. Outdoors is safest, but if you’re going to be inside, relatively large, well-ventilated spaces are safest. While scientists continue to debate how the virus spreads through the air, there’s no question that ventilation matters.
- AVOID Crowded places. The more people you are around, the more likely you are to be exposed to someone who is infected. And if other people in that space are talking, singing, shouting, or just breathing heavily, that’s a higher number of respiratory droplets and increased risk.
- AVOID Close contacts. The virus spreads from person to person, so you don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t keep your distance from other people most of the time — at least six feet away, but further is better. And wear a mask!
- AVOID Continuous exposure. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 in any of the above scenarios increases steadily as long as you remain in that situation. Sixty seconds in a crowded, indoor space is unlikely to expose you to an infectious amount of virus; 20 minutes in that same situation raises the risk level to “yikes.”
- CONSIDER Community spread. Pay attention to the positive-test rate in your area, because, statistically speaking, every activity is riskier when more people in the community are infected. For example, grocery shopping is a low-risk activity when the percent-positive rate in your community is below 1%; that same trip to the store would be moderately risky with an 8% positivity rate.
Now that you've learned the five C’s, feel free to shout them (alone) from the mountaintop! Or if you’d prefer not to hoof it up that high, we’ve got a poster you can share. Print one out for yourself, and you’ll be ready for any situation. Well, maybe except for getting that guy out of the pizza aisle.