How risky is that? New chart ranks winter activities based on risk level for COVID-19, flu

Texas Medical Association releases risk scale of getting virus for various winter activities, including the holidays

AUSTIN, Texas – Do you plan to take a picture with Santa Claus? How about Christmas caroling with a group of people? Or shopping in person on Black Friday?

Depending what choices we make this winter may very well determine our risk of contracting the coronavirus.

To help Texas residents understand how risky their choices may be this winter, the Texas Medical Association has released a chart that shows the risk of getting the virus or the flu depending on the activity.

The chart shows examples of activities ranked on a risk scale of 1 to 10, or low to high, by doctors from the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and the TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases.

“This is the best advice of ranking -- the relative ranking -- of the risk of activities by educated guesses of people who are in public health and epidemiology,” said Dr. Charles Lerner, a retired infectious disease hospital epidemiologist, infection control specialist from San Antonio, and member of the TMA COVID-19 Task Force, who had a hand creating the list. “There are no data where we have absolute numbers to say that, you know ... and we can give a statistical validity to it -- no.”

The 34 listed activities include things like viewing holiday lights with your family in your car, which is considered a 1, or low risk.

Having Thanksgiving dinner with family or household members is ranked as a 3, or low-moderate risk.

Traveling by plane to visit family or friends is considered a moderate risk, or a 5.

Taking a picture with Santa Claus is ranked as a 7. Shopping in person on Black Friday or Christmas caroling with a group is ranked as an 8, or moderate-high risk.

The riskiest of activities include ringing in the New Year at a bar or nightclub, which is ranked as a 10, or high risk.

The TMA says the activities assume that people are following safety protocols, which include social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands frequently.

In addition, the more people involving in the activity, the closer they are together, the more mingling that’s done indoors, the longer the time, the more singing and voice projection and the more alcohol consumed presents the greater the risk for contracting the virus, according to the TMA.

Lerner said the “having Thanksgiving dinner with family or household members” activity in the chart is a reference to family from outside of your household, which is why it has a slightly higher risk level -- 3 -- than would a meal with just household members.

It’s not a risk that he will personally be taking.

“I’ll tell you that my Thanksgiving celebration is going to be with my wife. My children will be on Zoom,” Lerner said.

While avoiding risk could mean skipping or altering holiday traditions -- like Lerner -- those kinds of sacrifices don’t go unappreciated.

“This has taken so much from people, but the health care workers thank you,” said San Antonio Metropolitan Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo.

You can view the TMA’s risk chart below:


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