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Risk Ratings

June 11, 2020
Categories: Health & Wellness

It’s a bit of a confusing time right now, with states and counties and communities all following their individual guidance on how to re-open activities during this pandemic. And make no mistake, we’re still in the middle of this pandemic.


While Thurston County met the criteria for advancing from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s 4 phase re-opening plan, at Panorama we are looking closely at what activities present a high risk of viral transmission, and what activities we may be able to support, with appropriate attention to safety measures.


HIGH RISK activities are events involving many people, in close quarters, with poor air circulation and extended time spent together. Such activities include theater productions, forums/meetings, exercise groups, sporting events, church services, choir/chorus, concerts, cultural gatherings (weddings, funerals, holidays), mass transit (planes, trains, boats, buses), and indoor restaurant dining. Unfortunately, getting a haircut is a high-risk activity due to the close proximity of the stylist/barber, small enclosed space, and extended time together. The risk may be reduced if everyone is wearing a mask at all times, the salon/shop schedules clients so they don’t overlap, screening for illness is done, and social interaction is kept to a minimum.

Shopping is another high risk activity since everyone is in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. If you must shop, reduce your risk by always wearing a mask, socially distance, and don’t linger in the aisles. Wear gloves (but be sure to remove them properly before touching any of your personal belongings!) or use a sanitizing wipe for high-touch surfaces such as cart handles, door knobs, and key pads.


MEDIUM RISK activities are those where social distancing is possible, they occur outside or in a large open-air space, screening for illness/sanitizing/mask-wearing is mandated, and people are not together for an extended time. A medium risk activity might be an outdoor gathering of no more than 5 people who aren’t in the same household with no sharing of food, drink, or utensils while everyone wears masks and spaces themselves at least 6 feet apart.


LOW RISK activities are those that pose minimal opportunities for transfer of illness. Medical/dental appointments are examples of low-risk activities, since providers must screen for illness, schedule patients so there is no crowding, sanitize surfaces thoroughly, practice good hand-hygiene, and require everyone to wear a mask. Camping is another low-risk activity if food is brought from home, RVs are spaced away from others, there is no socializing, and a person is self-contained with their needs. Exercising outdoors and visiting a beach or park presents low risk as long as masks are worn if another person is encountered.


Your personal risk also includes your medical history. Those with underlying conditions such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system have an increased risk of severe illness. Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University offers some common-sense guidance:

“We can think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: time, space, people, place. The more time you spend and the closer in space you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people raises your risk, and indoor places are riskier than outdoors.”

Please contact me at x7564 or marla.lefevre@panorama.org for further discussion of risk-rating activities or to receive a copy of a useful 6-page NPR article about this topic.

Marla LeFevre, RN

Director of Health Services

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