COVID: Is it safe to venture out?
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
Update 7/19/2020: See the end of the article for important update.
The challenge is once we come out of hibernation, what do we do now? For US citizens who live outside of New York or California the odds are you may not know someone personally who was injured or killed by the novel coronavirus. It is tempting to reason that the quarantine was an overreaction and to simply go about our normal lives like this anyway? That’s a fair point. We cannot simply remain quarantined and isolated for years at a time. But what we can do is take appropriate and reasonable precautions. The problem is that we often feel like we have an either/or option. We can either be the quarantine nuts who lock ourselves in our house forever and bleach our doorknobs or the conspiracy crazies who feel the government created this whole pandemic. However, most of us are in neither of these two camps and fall in some reasonable middle ground between these.
The challenge is once we come out of hibernation, what do we do now?
This reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve. G-d told Adam that no one should eat from the tree of knowledge. Adam told Eve that no one ought to even touch the tree. When the snake tricked Eve into touching the tree and she saw that no harm came to her she reasoned that likewise, no harm would come if she ate from it. Of course, the rest is history. Setting wider boundaries around something dangerous makes plenty of sense but has inherent risks not the least of which is a certain level of distrust about the actual danger itself.
As quarantine restrictions loosen, we will continue to see a rise in coronavirus cases. We must find the balance between living our lives and continuing to remain safe. Here is an article that shows the estimated risk of contracting COVID based on different scenarios. The gist of the message is that the risk is variable based on what risk factors are involved. Are you talking to someone 6 feet away? Is the person coughing constantly? Are you in a room with 10 other people? 100 people? These factors make a big difference in terms of the likelihood of contracting COVID.
The common sense approach for which I advocate is using best judgement in each situation that presents itself. Can you avoid interactions without it becoming detrimental to your physical and mental health? Then continue to do so. Do you have close contact with someone in a high-risk group (Over age 65, young but immunosuppressed etc)? Continue distancing as much as possible. Is the gym the one place that brings you sanity and they have an exhaustive distancing plan in place? Go ahead and lift. If you need to get together with someone else, you can do so. Just do it outdoors and don’t invite the whole neighborhood at once.
Enjoy your summer but stay safe at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive!
I wrote this article initially in early June when the initial quarantine was coming to an end and cases were relatively low. As COVID ticks back up again (or skyrockets as is the case in Florida, Arizona and elsewhere) new considerations must be taken into account. If you live in an area with a high prevalence of COVID cases, even doing low-risk activities comes with significantly increased risk of transmission. Consider if you will this equation - high-risk activity X prevalence of COVID = risk of acquiring COVID infection. A low risk activity in an area with few COVID cases is far safer than even a low-risk activity in an area with many COVID cases. As always use good judgement and as the cases increase in your area, strongly consider renewing quarantine or at a minimum stricter social distancing.