To say the coronavirus has disrupted our way of life is a gross understatement. As a card-carrying introvert, I have probably fared much better than my extroverted counterparts. I have food to eat, Internet to work and Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Philo to watch.

But, like most of the nation, I’m beginning to want to be out there. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss much during this time of lockdown.

My granddaughter is a high school senior. Born about a month after 9-11, she was introduced to a shocked and grieving nation. Now in 2020, the nation is in the midst of the worst crisis of her life and mine. She has a graduation gown and cap and a sign in the front yard to signify her high school graduation. As of yet, no graduation ceremony has been scheduled. 

I have grieved over the loss of my grandchildren’s spring sports season. I love watching them play. My grandson played tennis and my granddaughter played softball. I use the past tense, because their seasons were canceled before they got started. My granddaughter is an outstanding athlete, and she has missed her entire senior season in both volleyball and softball. During her fall volleyball season, she was recovering from shoulder surgery and worked very hard to get ready for softball season. And yes – people are suffering much more in many different ways. But everyone who suffers some kind of loss that was important to them is grieving in some way. 

There is a preponderance of data available about COVID-19. The question is what do we need to know and how do we handle it?  While many countries and U.S. states are in some phase of reopening or finalizing plans to do so, we need to proceed with caution, good judgment and facts we can depend on to guide that process.

The basic formula used to quantify the risk of getting the coronavirus is this: successful infection = exposure to virus X time. Very simply stated, that means the longer you are exposed to the virus, the more likely you are to catch it. 

As the country begins to reopen, the risks must be evaluated by each individual. Wholesale openings and widespread social interactions are a recipe for disaster. We need to be aware of situations that pose the most risks and be prepared to minimize them.

Some sources say that most people get infected in their own homes. When members of the household venture into the public arena and contract the virus, they bring that infection into the home, exposing other family members to possible infection.

Breathing in particles of viral material is the main source of contracting the virus. Being in proximity to others who are simply breathing is not that dangerous. Most breath droplets fall to the ground relatively quickly. But coughing and sneezing propel particles that go further and stay suspended in the air for a few minutes, rendering the space around them infectious. If you entered a room in which there had been coughing and sneezing a few minutes prior to your entry, you could possibly be infected.

If you were talking with someone face-to-face who is infected with the virus, it would take about 5 minutes to receive enough infected particles to actually catch the virus.

Up to 44% of people who are infected are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. People who do not exhibit symptoms yet when they are infected could actually be releasing viral particles into the environment up to 5 days before symptoms show up.

We are aware that the biggest outbreaks are in nursing homes. The next biggest outbreaks of the virus occur in prisons, religious ceremonies, and workplaces. Ten percent of infections occur from contact with infected people at weddings, funerals, and birthday parties.

For example, a choir in Washington state practiced social distancing during practice by sitting apart from each other, bringing their own music so no one else touched it and avoid coming into direct contact with each other. However, after singing for 2 hours in their church, 45 of the 60 choir members contracted the virus from one asymptomatic member, and two of those 45 died.

We’ve been told the rules for social distancing. But is it enough as we venture out into the public? Ninety percent of all transmission events are home, workplace, public transportation, social gatherings, and restaurants. Indoor spaces are the most troublesome. The social distancing rules only apply to protect you from brief or outdoor exposure.

To maximize your chances of staying safe, ask yourself these questions when planning on being in public places with other people:

  1. How large is the space?
  2. How many people are going to be in that space?
  3. How long do you plan to be in that space?

Think through your answers to the above questions and assess the relative risk you are taking by being in that situation. At the very least, wear a mask in public. Be safe.