4 key Measures of Risk mitigation
As the autumn came and it was more clear how human behavior and the path of the virus were predicting a dangerous winter, I began thinking about how to better measure real-world risk factors. Since we were no longer isolated in our homes, the risk of contraction and spread was clearly going to rise, but I felt there was still a way to put a meaningful and practical perspective on the risk factors. These four categories seem to cover the range of interaction and exposure in a way that can be calculated and controlled.
Frequency refers to the number of times you put yourself in a precarious position. For instance, if you go to the grocery store once per week, you are at a greater risk than if you go once every two weeks and you at less risk than if you were to go twice per week. If you work in an office or store, you would be at less risk if you go in only three days per week than if you go in every day. The idea is to find ways to limit your frequency of exposure.
The length of time you spend in a store or at the office is another factor in calculating risk. Exposure of fewer than 15 minutes has been reported to be fairly safe, provided you take regular precautions like wearing a proper mask, even if you venture into an environment where the virus is present. Running in and out of a store is obviously better than spending an hour, but it’s not always practical. But if we remain conscious of time, we can plan better and act more efficiently and quickly. Every minute counts.
We now know that the virus is airborne and that is why it is so contagious. Any indoor space that is typically crowded makes for increased risk, but it makes sense that your risk of contraction decreases the farther away you can get from the source(s). The six-foot rule is a minimum, but in many cases, we can stay well clear of others and maximize separation if we stay aware of the benefit.
Finally, “intensity” refers to the level of concentration of the contaminant. A small store with twenty people would be riskier than a big store with twenty people. An indoor space with low ceilings and poor ventilation is risker than a warehouse with industrial ventilators and filtration. Some establishments are using monitors to measure a space’s CO2 levels which is a form of measuring the potential intensity. Some people have taken to do their shopping at non-peak hours. These are methods of mitigating the risk posed by intensity.
There is no way to lower our risk factors to zero, but we are working on a new calculator that takes these factors into account so you can score your relative success at mitigating your risk. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to keep these factors in mind when planning your week and make choices that limit your exposure in terms of frequency, duration, proximity and intensity. Stay safe!