4 Steps to Reducing Your COVID-19 Risk as Massachusetts Reopens
Now that Massachusetts has entered Phase 2 of its phased approach to reopen the state in the wake of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have even more questions about which activities are safe.
Articles around the Internet read like Mad Libs: Is it safe to [verb] with [number] people? What if we’re outside? What if we’re wearing masks?
I recently answered a lot of these questions on a Facebook Live as part of One Healthy Boston, South Shore Health’s partnership with WCVB-TV. Check out the full interview below.
I understand why people want concrete answers. But like many things in life, it depends on a few variables.
When leaders shut down almost everything in March, everyone was playing by the same rules to avoid transmitting or receiving the virus in order to not overwhelm the state’s healthcare system.
The rules were clear: Don’t get close to people that you don’t live with and don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. Now, as the surge has passed, the guidelines for what’s safe aren’t as universal.
In my opinion, reaching a point where there are zero transmissions of COVID-19 is not realistic. I think the goal should be trying to prevent clusters of infections.
That means our priority should be trying to limit many different groups of people from interacting. We do this by limiting large gatherings and being most rigorous about protecting elderly and at-risk individuals from contracting the virus, since they are likely to develop life-threatening complications.
If you’re trying to assess the risk of an activity, think about these three things: People. Space. Time.
Consider the people involved
COVID-19 is still a new disease, but we do know it is more life-threatening for the elderly and people of all ages with underlying conditions like asthma, heart disease, and obesity.
If you have a child who is immunocompromised, you may not want to let him or her have an extended playdate. If you have an otherwise healthy child, it’s safer to allow an outdoor playdate.
For adults, the logic is the same. If you’re generally healthy, it’s probably safer to take a few more risks. If you have diabetes or another serious health issue, you probably want to be more careful to keep your risk of contracting coronavirus lower.
As always, talk to your doctor about your specific health needs.
Think about the space in which an event occurs
With the warm weather finally here, it’s easier to gather in small groups in an outdoor setting to socialize. Being outside, at least six feet apart, while wearing a mask as much as possible, is generally safe for healthy individuals.
Remember that gatherings should be limited to no more than 10 people to prevent a cluster of infections.
Know how much time you’re spending with others
The more time you spend with more people in closer proximity, the easier it is for the virus to spread. That’s why it’s generally safe for healthy individuals to allow guests to use your bathroom, but guests shouldn’t be spending much time inside your house—especially if they’re not wearing a mask, or if they haven’t practiced good hand hygiene.
Remember your COVID Infection Prevention Bundle
It’s also critically important, no matter how healthy you are, to build what I call your COVID Infection Prevention Bundle (CIPB for short): Masks, hand hygiene, and physical space.
This includes your mask when in a public space. But hand hygiene is equally important.
If you have your mask on, but you haven’t properly washed or sanitized your hands, you may contaminate the mask when you adjust it, or you may inadvertently touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, putting the virus in contact with your mucous membranes, which is where a viral infection often begins.
And, of course, keeping as much space as possible between you and others is a key part of the bundle.
As the world begins to reopen, it’s important to remember that this pandemic is nowhere near over. But by considering people, space, and time, you can begin to set boundaries that are best for you and your family.