Every time you walk out the door, you wonder whether you may catch COVID and bring it home with you. Even with a mask, proper handwashing, and social distancing, how risky is it to leave your household? A December report of 700 epidemiologists surveyed by the New York Times felt outdoor activities and touching surfaces were low-risk, but indoor activities and those with larger groups were the riskiest activities, including:

  • Indoor dining
  • Wedding/funeral/church
  • Concert/Sporting
  • Indoor playdates
  • Shared office work

Extended indoor activities involve heavy risk of COVID transmission. Masks and proper ventilation can mitigate, but not eliminate risk, particularly the longer, the closer, the louder, and the more numerous the parties in the room. https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1335345549889982467?s=20

Other scientists have tackled the idea of risk head by developing online risk calculators which determine COVID risk based on activity type, time period, number of people, and mitigation factors. 19 and Me  https://19andme.covid19.mathematica.org/ collects location and basic health data to determine your probability of catching COVID and your associated risk of hospitalization, ICU, and death. By entering my personal information, I found my risk of catching COVID from my normal VERY low risk activities was .04%, so I felt safe until I saw that 19 and Me estimated that Fairfax County has an underreporting of COVID by half, meaning that twice as many people are likely walking around with COVID than reported. If I caught COVID, I had a 5% risk of hospitalization, which is higher than I expected.

What is my risk

Another risk calculator, My Covid Risk https://mycovidrisk.app/, found that even my normal 35-minute grocery shopping trip involved a medium risk of COVID. Next time, I will have to make a list and plan my shopping trip better to reduce my risk.

So what is your risk when you leave your house? It all depends on who you are, where you are going, how long you will be there, and whether you and those around you are following the best COVID prevention procedures. If you are unable to work at home, advocate for the best protective measures possible: good ventilation, mandatory mask requirements, opportunities for frequent hand-washing, thorough cleaning procedures, and a reduction of the number of people in your workplace.

No matter what, do the following to reduce your risk of catching COVID: wear a mask, wash your hands, limit gatherings outside of your household, maintain social distance, and ensure good ventilation when you are with others outside of your household. 

W is for What is My COVID Risk? Know your risk, mask up and keep safe, Your @safeFCPS Communications Lead