Rolling The Dice With COVID:

How At-Risk Are You?

Every decision today is a life or death one; are you gambling with your health?

I’m willing to bet that if you have ever gambled, you learned the rules of the game first. You may have even reviewed your finances and established a “bank” that you were willing to part with, in case the odds at the casino were not, as they say, in your favor. But, have you done the same risk evaluation with the novel coronavirus and your behaviors? 

Let’s take a hypothetical look at what the numbers tell us about our risk of contracting COVID-19 depending on the situations we find (or place) ourselves in so that you have a legitimate perspective from which to view your current, real-life, chances of becoming infected. 

Assuming you are practicing safe physical distancing with appropriate mask wearing and hand sanitation one hundred percent correctly, one hundred percent of the time – you are still at risk whenever you leave your home. Firstly, even the best of available face masks only contain/block about 98-99% of virus particles. (And most cloth masks only block 50%.) The best case scenario here would equate the risk of each and every trip into a grocery store or public building at 1-2%. Doesn’t seem too scary.

Now, let’s factor in exposure time and what’s known as viral load. One infected person would not produce as much viral “shedding” as ten people. Five minutes quickly in and out of a convenience store is a brief time to be exposed to any potential virus in the air. Compare that to an hour long period of window shopping in an indoor mall with hundreds of other shoppers who may be infected. (If you live in an area with a large population of infected – what’s known as a high positivity rate, generally anything over five percent – then, obviously your risk goes up exponentially.) For the sake of time, let’s assume the risk of transmission only goes up by only one-half percent each ten minutes. 

Quick Trip To 7/11

Risk = about 0.5-1%

Milling In The Mall 

Risk = 3-6% 

Let’s look at some of our essential obligations, such as going to work (if we are lucky to remain employed) and grocery shopping. For the sake of this examination, let us assume the grocery store is enforcing social distancing and mask usage policies. Contrast a thirty minute trip once per week while working five half-days in an office or other enclosed building with two 60 minute trips to the store while working 5 eight-hour days. 

Pseudo-Sheltering

Store = 1.5-3% risk

Work = 3-12%

Total Risk – 4.5-15%

Normal Schedule

Stores = 3-6% risk X 2 (6-12%)

Work = 6-12% risk 

Total Risk = 18-30% 

The maximum potential risk of becoming infected with COVID are startling. Obviously, there are many other factors involved in disease transmission and the interplay between them is complex. This is far from a scientific evaluation performed in a laboratory setting with double-blind comparisons. However, this little exercise hopefully highlights the reality of the situation, depending on the safety precautions you are taking in your life. 

Note:

If you are also attending large gatherings, often in enclosed spaces, etc. then the above risks would need be added to these in order to evaluate your true risk, which would obviously be much higher – potentially doubling every time.

I strongly encourage to stop right now and take a good, hard look at your lifestyle right now. Are you out and about in public and/or in enclosed indoor spaces much? Are you taking sensible precautions? Is your mask effective against virus particles, which range from ten to hundreds of times smaller than bacteria? What changes can you make immediately that would reduce your risk of contracting (and possibly transmitting to others) the novel coronavirus? 

Are you being responsible with your health – and that of others?

As the TAQ team has been saying, the time is now to Double Down on your precautions, including reducing trips to any enclosed buildings, practicing physical distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing your hands frequently. And, because this sheltering process is, indeed, frustrating and creates many challenges for us, the time is now to Level Up your coping strategies so that you don’t fall prey to fatalism or nihilism, or anxiety and depression. 

For more specific information on how to stay safe, see our Resource Guide and get the Ultimate Sheltering Guide available in this blog here. 

I’ll close the way I always end the podcast for TAQ: Stay strong; stay well; and, stay in touch. 

~ by: Langdon Bosarge, RN, BSN 

Langdon is the nurse for TAQ and host of our podcast. He specializes in Psychiatry, Education and Disease Prevention.

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