This article discusses what you need to know now while managing your health risk during the pandemic. It offers a smart way to help you focus on the activities you value most.
Wow. What a taxing year it has been. From pandemic shutdowns and misinformation to social unrest, we’ve all had a level of stress and anxiety that has been taxed. The Covid-19 decision fatigue is real as cities continue to close & reopen as the pandemic waxes and wanes. Many of us continue to struggle to find ways to reconcile the things we want to do — sports! socializing! museums! school! — with our strong desire to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities as safe as possible.
As opportunities to get out and about become available, or unavailable, Covid-19 is still very much with us. And that means we each have to choose where we are willing to take risks. Is a social get-together worth it? A couple hours of work at your favorite coffee shop? An early morning workout at the gym? Just how should we do the calculus on what we should do or not do? One way is to create a “risk budget”.
Setting Your Personal Risk Budget
A budget can be empowering. It’s a way to cap the amount of risk you’re taking overall so you can ensure you’re “spending” risk on things that are most valuable to you and not wasting it on activities you can live without. It’s also a way to protect you and yours from harm and a way to bump some of those elements like stress and social factors to the side so they don’t have an oversized influence on your decisions.
Here is a three-step guide to minimizing your risk. It is based on a New York Times survey of 700 epidemiologists.
- There is one behavioral risk you should try to eliminate, without exception: Spending time in a confined space (outside your household) where anyone is unmasked. This means:
- Don’t eat indoors at a restaurant or friend’s house.
- Don’t have close, unmasked conversations with anyone, even outdoors.
- If you must fly, try to not eat or drink on the plane.
- If you’re going to work, don’t have lunch in the same room as colleagues as these have led to outbreaks at hospitals and elsewhere.
- This next set of behaviors is best to minimize if you can’t avoid it: Spending extended time in indoor spaces, even with universal masking. Masks aren’t perfect. If you can work out at home rather than at a gym — or do your job or attend religious services remotely — you’re reducing your risk.
- Now the good news: several activities are less risky than people fear.
- You don’t need to wear a mask when you go out for a walk, jog, or bike ride. Just remember to stay six feet away from people.
- You can also feel OK about doing many of your errands. 90 percent of the epidemiologists in the survey have recently visited a grocery store, a pharmacy or another store. Just wear a mask, stay distant from others, and wash your hands afterward.
The Big Pic
Every decision to connect with the outside world is a single event that comes with its own risks. As such, it’s important to think about each of these decisions cumulatively. By taking calculated risks where it is most beneficial to you or your loved ones, you can choose to skip ones that aren’t as valuable. If you want a haircut, great – but then maybe don’t go for an indoor meal at a friend’s. Whenever you are taking on more risk in one situation, balance that out by cutting down risks elsewhere.
Personally, I don’t spend any of my risk budget on indoor grocery shopping, because local farmers markets and grocery delivery works well for my family. But I do hit nearby hiking trails and go for socially distant bike rides with friends. These serve as the nourishment that keeps my wellbeing and sanity intact.