Doctors Create Color-Coded Chart Ranked By Coronavirus Risk Level

Runners in masks
Photo credit Stock / Getty Images

How do you know whether or not an activity is safe? 

A group of doctors has come up with a handy color-coded chart showing the coronavirus risk levels for everything from eating outdoors to attending a church service. 

Dr. Saskia Popescu is one of the doctors behind the chart. She is an epidemiologist and infection preventionist with the University of Arizona, and she spoke with KCBS Radio about it.

"This is still a very evolving, novel situation, so our chart was really created out of need," she said. "People were wondering, 'Well what can I do?'"

She added that there is a "false dichotomy" around activities, leaving people to think the only two options are to either stay inside or to go outside where it’s dangerous.

To alleviate any confusion about #COVID, and for our visual-learners out there, @scharschool PhD alumna and epidemiologist @SaskiaPopescu made an illustrated color-coded chart. Look it over, follow its instructions, & follow @ScharSchool too.

— Schar School (@ScharSchool) July 27, 2020

"If you think about the four things that make something high risk, it’s enclosed space, lots of people, shouting, yelling or any kind of increased work of breathing activities and for a prolonged period of time," Dr. Popescu said.

Low-level risk activities (staying home, getting take out, running, outdoor picnic):

"Most people do it by themselves, or with one other person, but most interactions you have with someone is going to be very brief in duration and you’re never going to stay within six feet for more than a few seconds," she explained.

Low/Medium-risk activities (distanced sports, grocery and retail shopping):

Dr. Popescu said that, overall, grocery shopping tends to be low risk because stores have been taking "great" mitigation strategies.

"People are going to be wearing their masks and are able to socially distance, so the only real risk comes if you’re standing in a line in close quarters with other people when you’re checking out or if you’re waiting at the produce area," she said.

Medium-risk activities (Medical/dental office visits, outdoor dining, ride-sharing):

"The challenge is you’re in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time because most of us tend to wait more than 15-20 minutes and that can be with a lot of other people," Dr. Popescu explained.

She added that outdoor dining is the way to go, but that the six-foot distance between tables is important.

Medium-High risk activities (exercising in a gym, working in an office, indoor dining, salons):

"A gym can be really, really challenging because unfortunately, you are so dependent on how vigilant they are in infection control measures," she said, adding that the high-touch surface areas increase the risk of infection.

"How do you not force exhalation? Plus, it’s really challenging to wear a mask," she added.

High-risk activities (Bars, indoor parties, religious services, concerts, air travel, public transit):

Dr. Popescu explained that sports and ball games of any kind are challenging, even if it’s outdoors. 

"Those close quarters are going to be really difficult to maintain infection control practices," she said. "Plus, what do we do when we do it? We’re yelling, we’re shouting, we’re excited and that forced exhalation is a really big piece."