What’s more dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic? Going to the barbershop or eating at a restaurant?
The Texas Medical Association asked physicians from its COVID-19 task force and its committee on infectious diseases to rank — on a scale of one to 10 — how risky it is to do daily activities as COVID-19 continues to rage through much of the U.S.
Five factors were considered: whether the activity is indoors or outside, proximity to others, exposure time, how likely people are to comply with safety precautions, and personal risk level.
Their responses helped the medical association devise a chart that shows the rankings, which are based on participants following recommended safety precautions, such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Opening mail ranked the least risky on the chart. Other activities such as attending a large music concert, going to a sports stadium, going to a bar and attending a large religious service were ranked the most dangerous.
Dr. Mark Casanova, a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force who collaborated on the chart, said each activity’s risk level is variable.
Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, for example, is ranked a four on the chart. That risk could be lower if the doctor’s office scheduled appointments so that wait time was just a couple of minutes with no one else in the room.
“Obviously, that‘s a much lower-risk situation,” Casanova said.
Another factor to consider is who is participating in the activities, according to Casanova. For example, dining out with people from your immediate household is less risky than dining with people who don’t live with you, especially with an unknown number of asymptomatic carriers in the community, he said.
“You’re with someone but who have they been with?” Casanova said. “The tighter we keep our bubble the better.”
The chart is offered as a general guidance. Still, as cases surge across North Texas, officials urge residents to wear masks in public and practice social distancing.
“If we all move from selfishness to sacrifice we can get through this together,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday in a statement.
Throughout the pandemic Jenkins has asked residents to weigh the risk of what they’re doing.
“Just because something can be open doesn’t mean it should be open,” Jenkins said earlier this year as restaurants and other businesses were allowed to reopen.
Dallas County has its own guide — a color-coded chart with recommendations on how, and when, residents can participate in daily activities. The chart — created by public health, epidemiology and infectious disease experts — currently has Dallas County’s risk level in the red category, indicating a high community risk for COVID-19 transmission.
The county recommends takeout over dining at a restaurant, and limiting shopping to once a week or as needed.
Many activities are currently not recommended by county officials, including: participating in summer camps, youth sports, going to bowling alleys, team sports, swimming at public pools, going to gyms, personal services such as haircuts, visiting libraries or museums, or going to movie theaters.
In June, as some North Texas movie chains began to reopen, Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services director urged residents to consider the rise in cases and hospitalizations before going out to the movies.
“You always have to make a risk assessment. How important for you is it to see this movie vs. seeing it on Netflix?” Huang said.