A guide to safe activities during COVID-19.

by Manu Kaushal, MD, FCCP, Medical Director of Critical Care and Medical Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Medstar Montgomery Medical Center
September 2, 2020

Most stay-at-home orders have lifted and many people are trying to resume normal life as much as possible. We know that wearing a face mask and socially distancing ourselves from others can help to limit the spread of COVID-19. But, it’s not always clear which activities carry a higher risk of exposure, especially as COVID-19 cases continue rising. By understanding the environment you’ll be in and who you’ll be around, you can weigh your risks carefully.

How to decide what activities are safe.

Every situation is different but some activities are riskier than others. Here are five things you should consider when deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to participate in certain activities.

How do you decide which social activities are safe? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Dr. Kaushal shares 5 things to consider as you weigh the risks of getting out and about during #COVID19: https://bit.ly/31RD3X3.

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1. Check the COVID-19 status in your community.

Find out if your community is experiencing widespread infection rates. Generally, if the positivity rate is less than 5%, it’s relatively safer to leave your home to participate in low-to-moderate risk activities. If your community infection positivity rate is greater than 5%, it’s a good idea to remain at home until the numbers decline.

2. Choose outdoor activities over indoor gatherings.

Outside activities are safer than indoor gatherings for a variety of reasons. Ventilation and airflow are better outside, and being outdoors makes it easier to remain six feet apart from those who are nearby. Indoor settings are often confined spaces that require you to be near others, which means the risk of spread is higher.

For example, going on a hike with your family is low-risk because you won’t come into contact with many people and there’s plenty of space to maintain social distancing. In contrast, an indoor concert offers seating close to others with little to no airflow, making it a higher-risk activity. In either case, it’s important to wear a face mask if you’re going to be with people who are outside of your household and within six feet.

An exception to the rule.

When you need medical care, it’s safe to visit the doctor’s office or emergency room. Hospitals and health clinics are taking extraordinary measures to isolate infected patients from others, and it’s important not to delay care that could worsen if left untreated. From staggered appointment slots to physically distanced floor markers, we’re prioritizing your health and safety in new ways that ensure we still offer the same high-quality care you expect.

When you can’t avoid schools and daycares.

Daycares, offices, and schools are taking extra precautions to facilitate screening and safer seating arrangements. Cohorting is one strategy schools are taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 between students. Cohorts are small groups that remain together throughout the day but have limited interaction with other groups.

If you haven’t already, ask your child’s school the following questions to determine whether or not it’s safe to send your child:

  • Are you screening students and staff upon arrival?
  • What is the strategy to isolate someone who is infected and prevent others from getting sick?
  • How will you communicate outbreaks to families?
  • Will children need to wear face masks? Will the school provide masks?

It’s important to make sure your kids are up-to-date on necessary vaccinations. And, if your child is sick or shows symptoms of COVID-19, keep them home.

3. Minimize the time you spend interacting with others.

The longer you spend around others in public settings, the higher your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Whether you’re thinking about going to town to run errands or visiting the barber for a haircut, try to find ways to minimize the amount of time you’ll be close to others. While it’s generally good etiquette to arrive at appointments early, whether it’s for a nail appointment or doctor visit, consider waiting in your car until they’re ready for you.

4. Consider who you’ll be interacting with.

When you’re deciding whether or not to participate in a social activity, think about whether or not you can control who you’re going to be around. If you’re going to be with a small group of family members who you know haven’t recently traveled or shown symptoms of COVID-19, then the risk of infecting someone or being infected is lower than if you’re around a large group of people who you do not know.

5. Understand your risk factors.

If you or someone in your household is 65 or older, or has a pre-existing condition that increases their risk of complications from COVID-19, it’s better to limit your activities to those with a low-risk. Chronic conditions that increase your risk include:

  • Asthma
  • Body mass index (BMI) above 30
  • COPD
  • Coronary disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system (e.g. cancer patients)

Assessing your risks on a spectrum.

Your personal risk may be different than someone else’s risk, depending on your age, health condition, and community infection rates. So, you’ll need to use your best judgment to determine which activities are safe for you and which activities you should probably avoid.

In general, the more people you’re around for a longer period of time, the greater your risk. And, whether or not the people around you are following safety precautions affects your risk, too. You have to determine the level of risk you’re comfortable with based on the factors you can and cannot control within the environment.

Ranking social activities by risk.

Low Risk

  • Doctor’s office
  • Camping
  • Visiting a secluded beach
  • Walking or running
  • Drive-in-theater
  • Non-contact sports (e.g. tennis)

Moderate Risk

  • Eating outdoors at a restaurant
  • Swimming in a public pool
  • Attending a small BBQ with family
  • Getting a haircut at the salon

High Risk

  • Gyms
  • Music festivals
  • Sports stadiums
  • Contact sports (e.g. basketball)
  • Playgrounds
  • Eating indoors at a restaurant
  • Public transportation

Continue following safety precautions.

There’s risk involved with any activity in a public setting, so in all cases, take the proper precautions to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands regularly.

And if you need medical care, don’t hesitate. We’re here for you in-person and online, whenever and however you need us.

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COVID-19 Information

Category: Living Well     Tags: covid-19covid-19 safetyMedStar Health