Across the US, states have different guidelines about public gatherings or simply going out in public during COVID-19 (think: meeting up with friends vs. taking a trip to the grocery store). The general rule of thumb when it comes to thwarting the spread of the virus is to have extra precautions, like face masks, especially when in crowded indoor areas with poor ventilation. Right before the Fourth of July, the Texas Medical Association came out with a handy chart to help the general public assess their risk before heading out of the house.
The chart, seen above, was created with input from a group of experts in public health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, and other relevant fields, according to a spokesperson. The rankings were made with the assumption that people would participate in the activities while still practicing recommended safety protocols, such as wearing masks, when possible. The activities were assessed by riskiness as it pertained to proximity to others, exposure time, likelihood of compliance to those safety protocols, and whether the activity was indoors or outdoors. (Outdoor activities are generally safer than those held indoors.)
You'll see that such activity, such as opening the mail, going camping, playing tennis, and pumping gas, have low risk ratings. Among the highest-risk activities are going to a bar, concert, religious service with 500-plus people, sports stadium, amusement park, and gym.
John Carlo, MD, is a member of Texas Medical Association's COVID-19 Task Force, and he took part in creating this risk-factor chart. In an interview, he said that the group wanted to put something together that was visually easy to understand. "It's not perfect, and it may not be for every situation, but we're using it as a simple guide for people to make their own decisions on," he noted. The risk factor of these activities is still dependent on your specific situation. For instance, going to the beach has a risk factor of five, but if you're attending a beach that isn't crowded at all, that risk would go down.
Additionally, despite the fact that these physicians rated the risk of going to a hair salon as a seven, one report posted by the CDC showcased an instance where the requirement for stylists and clients to wear masks in a Springfield, MO, salon prevented 139 clients and their secondary contacts from falling ill after contact with two symptomatic stylists who tested positive for COVID-19.
The doctors from Texas Medical Association have not provided any guidance suggesting the risk factor of these activities shown in the chart is no longer relevant, the spokesperson confirmed. But as mentioned, the graphic, which you can print as a PDF here, is merely a guide to help you make decisions before heading out. Essentially, use common sense prior to being around people you do not live with.
"In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread," the CDC states. (Remember, the main form of transmission that the CDC focuses on is person to person through respiratory droplets.) It also names other important factors to think through: local orders and transmission in your own community, the need for public transportation, where the activity is being held and how close you'll be to others, as well as how long you'll be doing that specific activity.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.