Even as we move through the stages of reopening here in California, that won’t mean the risk of contracting COVID-19 disappears. Until we get a vaccine, every day will probably involve some type of risk weighing, so we asked a medical professional what the riskiest activities are right now.
Dr. Jahan Fahimi, emergency department medical director at UCSF, assessed the risk of some common activities (some of which aren’t even allowed yet in the Bay Area, though they could be soon), with the caveat that all situations will vary slightly in risk level based on time and the number of people involved. “The more people you’re with and the longer amount of time you’re with them, the riskier the behavior becomes,” Fahimi said. “That’s the best way to assess your risk.”
Going to a class at a gymFahimi called this the riskiest activity on the list, especially since it’s likely indoors in a small space. Not only is it difficult to maintain a strict six-foot distance apart from others in a gym studio, but it’s also very tough to wear a mask while exercising. “People are exerting themselves and as they do that they’re breathing faster and there is forced exhalation, which can spread droplets,” Fahimi said. “The six-foot rule is based on when someone coughs, but there’s now some evidence that the radius goes beyond that six feet in some instances.”Fahimi also said a gym is a high-risk place because of the number of surfaces you touch while in a gym, including both the equipment and in the locker room. “It’s summertime and there are plenty of outdoor ways to stay healthy.”
Indoor barsWhen you’re eating and drinking, you’re unable to wear a mask, which makes bars a particularly risky endeavor. Couple that with poor ventilation and lowered inhibition and you could be at a higher risk of infection. “Bars are traditionally packed, people are close together and there is rarely good ventilation,” Fahimi said. “People are drinking things, they’re touching things. If people get intoxicated they get disinhibited and may get further lax from the guidelines. It’s just something we need to go without for now.”
Large gatherings indoors at people’s houses“People might think ‘if I’m going to the house of someone I know it must be fine,’ but generally speaking if you do want to socialize with friends and family, just try and do it in an outdoor setting rather than indoors,” Fahimi said.The more people gathering, the higher the risk, he said, especially when people aren’t wearing a mask and are touching several surfaces. Even if you’re attending an outdoor gathering at someone’s house, Fahimi said to be careful when going to the bathroom inside and make sure you’re washing your hands. If you’re hosting the outdoor gathering, he recommends having hand sanitizer available to guests, wipe down surfaces often and even use disposable plates and utensils.
Going to an amusement park“The problem with an amusement park is you’re taking people from all over and packing them in with other people from all over,” Fahimi said. “It wouldn’t take very many positive cases to cause a cluster and then these people go back to their homes and take the virus with them. It creates a hotspot for viruses to take off.”He said especially because we know there are so many asymptomatic cases, even doing temperature checks upon entry wouldn’t ease his fears of going to a crowded place like Disneyland.
Churches“We’ve already seen a lot of cases of spread within churches, so while I think in troubling times it’s even more important that people have a faith-based outlet if that’s important to them if that’s going to put your health in jeopardy maybe there’s a better way to express that,” Fahimi said.He suggests sticking to virtual services if you can.