Doctors Rate The Riskiest Activities To Do Right Now

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    Going into a church or a bar are the two highest-risk activities for COVID-19 exposure, according to the results of a new survey of physicians. But no matter where you go, these physicians say, wearing a mask and keeping social distance reduces your risk.

    The riskiest activities right now are those done without social distance or a mask, doctors say.

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    “From the riskiest to least risky activities, there is significantly less risk when wearing a mask and social distancing,” said ophthalmologist Robert. W. Panton, MD, president of the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), which conducted the survey with the Illinois Medical Professionals Action Collaborative Team (IMPACT).

    “[D]octors generally agree on where the greatest risk occurs. Gatherings, large group activities, and scenarios where you can’t control the movements or actions of those around you can be risky,” Dr. Panton added. “It’s incredibly important that we all wear masks.”

    Rounding out the top five riskiest daily activities are attending a conference at a hotel, going to a large dinner party, and commuting by train or bus, according to the survey results.

    What doctors say is risky

    For this survey, ISMS and IMPACT asked physicians to rate the risk of COVID-19 exposure for dozens of daily activities on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 was “very low risk” and 5 “very high risk.” Participants were required to respond with two ratings for each activity, the first for when masks and social distancing were used (when feasible) and the second for when masks and social distancing were not used.

    A total of 140 physicians responded to the survey. Because patients typically turn to primary care doctors first for answers about COVID-19 safety, ISMS and IMPACT aimed to especially include PCPs for this survey.

    Physicians rated all activities that were done without wearing a mask or social distancing as riskier than those done while wearing a mask and social distancing. Physicians also rated socially focused events and activities to be more risky. Here are the top 20 results for each scenario.

    Riskiest activities for COVID-19 exposure when not wearing a mask or social distancing

    1. Attending a large indoor religious service, concert, or other event (more than 50 people)

    2. Going to a bar (inside)

    3. Attending a conference at a hotel

    4. Hosting or attending a large dinner party

    5. Traveling by bus or train for daily commuting

    6. Traveling by commercial airplane

    7. Going to a movie theater

    8. Playing a high-contact sport (such as football or basketball)

    9. Attending a professional sporting event at a large outdoor stadium

    10. Hugging or shaking hands

    11. Attending a small indoor religious service, concert, or other event (fewer than 50 people)

    12. Sending kids to school, camp, or daycare

    13. Eating in a restaurant (inside)

    14. Attending a large outdoor religious service, concert, or other event (more than 50 people)

    15. Volunteering at a school

    16. Walking in a busy downtown

    17. Visiting an elderly friend or relative in their home

    18. Working out at a gym

    19. Out-of-state travel to states that require quarantine when returning to your home state

    20. Going to a bar (outside)
    Riskiest activities for COVID-19 exposure when wearing a mask and social distancing

    1. Going to a bar (inside)

    2. Hugging or shaking hands

    3. Attending a large indoor religious service, concert, or other event (more than 50 people)

    4. Hosting or attending a large dinner party

    5. Attending a conference at a hotel

    6. Playing a high-contact sport (such as football or basketball)

    7. Going to a movie theater

    8. Traveling by commercial airplane

    9. Traveling by bus or train for daily commuting

    10. Attending a professional sporting event at a large outdoor stadium

    11. Sending kids to school, camp, or daycare

    12. Attending a large outdoor religious service, concert, or other event (more than 50 people)

    13. Out-of-state travel to states that require quarantine when returning to your home state

    14. Attending a small indoor religious service, concert, or other event (fewer than 50 people)

    15. Eating in a restaurant (inside)

    16. Volunteering at a school

    17. Going to a bar (outside)

    18. Working out at a gym

    19. Visiting an elderly friend or relative in their home

    20. Going to a hair salon or barbershop
    “If we want to get our economy back on track while also controlling this pandemic, we must consistently wear masks when outside of the home, continue to social distance, and practice excellent hand hygiene,” said oncologist Shikha Jain, MD, co-founder of IMPACT. “Our hope is this survey highlights that [physicians] agree we cannot become complacent, especially as we enter into flu season.”

    Masks ‘are our best defense’

    These results come at a time when the vast majority of Americans are still vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

    CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, recently stated during a September 23 Senate hearing, “The preliminary results in the first round [of a serology study] show that a majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible.”

    “Face masks…are the most important powerful public tool we have,” he told lawmakers at a hearing the week before. “We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Dr. Redfield said, referring to the projected 70% efficacy rate of a potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

    On a positive note, Americans say they’ve been wearing masks more often as the pandemic wears on. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in August 2020 found that 85% of Americans said they regularly wear a mask or face covering in stores and other businesses all or most of the time. When asked the same question in early June, only 65% said they were doing so.

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