Viral chart shows risk of activities during COVID-19, but is it accurate?

ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
These activities put you most at risk of getting coronavirus
Now that the state is slowly reopening, and a statewide mask order is in effect, ABC13's Roxie Bustamante breaks down what activities put you most at risk of contracting coronavirus and others that are safe to keep doing.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A chart that shows the risk of different activities amid the coronavirus pandemic has gone viral - but exactly how accurate is it?

COVID-19 RISK CALCULATOR: Quiz yourself on the safest, most dangerous things you can do as California reopens

The graphic was made and released by the Texas Medical Association. It shows the relative risk of ordering takeout, doing your groceries, eating at a restaurant and pretty much everything else as we continue to live with the threat of COVID-19.


But before you use this graphic as a roadmap for your life, you should ask yourself a few questions. Ok, maybe it's actually a lot of questions:

"When people are considering an activity or outing, they have to consider variables such as indoors versus outdoors, time spent around others, density of people, shared surfaces and the ability to physical distance," says ABC7 News Contributor Dr. Alok Patel, for starters.

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For example, the Texas Medical Association chart lists going to the beach as a higher risk than going grocery shopping. However, walking along an empty Mendocino County beach by yourself poses next-to-no COVID-19 risk. Going to a crowded grocery store where no one is wearing masks (not allowed in California, by the way) would pose a relatively higher health risk.

We asked experts to help us navigate the risk of 12 activities you may want to do in California. Check out our interactive story below to see what they had to say.

Then there's the question of any underlying medical conditions you might have, or if you have high-risk members of your household.

Plus, you should also think about the rate of transmission in your community. Going out to a restaurant in Shasta County isn't the same risk as going out to eat in Orange County, for example.

The biggest asterisk on all of the activities in the chart? Masks. If people aren't wearing face coverings during any of those activities, the risk factor gets dialed way up.

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"People need to keep in mind that businesses could follow every single safety precaution perfectly and that still may not be enough," says Patel. "The general public visiting those businesses need to be responsible, as well."

For those reasons, the Texas chart isn't totally off base, but it's a bit simplified. You may want to think of the chart as more a "litmus test," suggests Patel, as opposed to actionable health advice.

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