Infectious-Disease Expert Weighs In on the Risk Levels of Everyday Activities

As the pandemic drags on, many people are getting antsy. Distance learning is coming to an end with summer fast approaching, and we want to have some semblance of a normal summer. Yet, health is on everyone’s mind. It’s hard not to ask questions like the following:

Is it okay to go to the beach?

Is it safe to visit my family?

When restaurants reopen for dine-in service, is it dangerous to eat there?

Will I get sick if I go to a salon to get my hair cut?

Dr. Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane University, gave her expert opinion to Business Insider. While there are no guarantees, some activities are definitely riskier than others. As always, social distancing is very important no matter the activity. Tred cautiously, but if you need to get out of the house, hopefully this expert advice will help.

What activities are low risk?

Add outdoor activities to the top of this list. It’s easier to social distance in wide open spaces, and if you quickly walk past other people on a hiking trail, for example, the risk of getting sick is very low. Keep in mind that outdoor activities are low risk assuming you’re staying with people from your household and not meeting up with friends. 

The beach counts as “outdoors,” obviously, so it’s safe to say that a trip to the beach is low risk as long as the beach is not crowded and social distancing is easy to do. The risk at the beach goes up to medium risk if the beach is crowded. Basically, don’t go to a popular beach at a popular time.

Shopping is also relatively low risk. We’ve already been going this – wearing face coverings and social distancing our way through grocery stores and big box stores that never closed.

While you can wipe down your groceries and mail when you get home, the risk of getting sick from these items is also low.

If a restaurant near you is now open for outdoor dining, that is also relatively low risk. Keep in mind that menus, salt and pepper shakers, etc, may not be the cleanest, so still be cautious, wear a mask when possible, and make sure to stay 6 feet away from other diners.

What activities are medium risk?

Dining inside a restaurant is medium risk. In general, an enclosed space is riskier than an outdoor space. Other enclosed spaces where people spend quite a bit of time are also medium risk. These places include gyms, hair salons, and nail salons.

Going on a date or meeting up with one or two friends who don’t live in your home is also medium risk since you’re less likely to be wearing a mask and social distancing.

What activities are high risk?

Any activity where a lot of people are going to be in one place for a period of time is high risk. Examples include attending church, going to a party or a family gathering, seeing a movie at a movie theater, and getting a drink at a bar. In these situations, social distancing is much harder to do, and people are less likely to wear masks. Also, when you’re around a lot of people who are not members of your household, the risk that someone is contagious increases.