TMA ranks risks of catching COVID-19

There is a lower chance of contracting COVID-19 by picking up takeout for dinner, than sitting down at an outdoor restaurant. But eating at that same outdoor restaurant, is less risky than having dinner at a friend’s house.

The Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force evaluated several daily activities and ranked them from low risk to high risk for exposure to the coronavirus. Then, in collaboration with the TMA Committee of Infectious Diseases, the organization created a chart to help the public understand the levels of risks regarding COVID-19 transmissions.

However, Dr. Ogechika Alozie, a member of the COVID-19 Task Force, implored the public to keep in mind that a risk, no matter how low, is still a risk.

“Once you leave your house, a place where you can control the environment, there is always going to be a risk,” Alozie, of El Paso, said.

To make the chart, the task force, which is composed of about 15 physicians, ranked several activities on a scale of one to 10 — with one being the lowest risk of exposure. Doctors ranked the riskiness of each activity based on the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in each situation.

Some of the activities listed as the least risky include pumping gasoline, playing tennis and opening the mail; activities cautioned as high risks are working out at gyms, and going to movie theaters, sports stadiums and bars.

Sending kids to school, going to the mall, and visiting the beach, were listed as moderate risks.

“The thing about risk is that risk is relative,” Alozie said. “It is staying home versus going outdoors; having dinner with some friends at an outdoor dining area versus dinner at a crowded restaurant.”

Alozie also emphasized that though the risk of an activity may be classified as low, partaking in that activity frequently increases the chances of contracting the disease.

“The more you get out of your house, the higher the risk always is,” he said.

The TMA COVID-19 Task Force has plans to continue providing information that can guide the public into safer lifestyles during the pandemic, Alozie said, which may include various versions of the risk chart.

For now though, Alozie said the best way to lower the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is to follow these four W’s: wear your mask, wash your hands, watch your social distance, and watch your symptoms.

“I think that the key that everybody needs to understand is that irrespective of the ranking of the risk, whenever you are in a situation where you are engaging in the public, follow these social distancing precautions,” he said.

“We are early in this process, we are probably in the fourth inning of a nine-inning baseball game. We have to continue to be diligent about masking, hand hygiene and physical distancing for the foreseeable future.”