Welcome to the web version of Need to Know: Science & Insight, a new form of personal journalism on what we really Need-to-Know about climate impacts, energy transitions, the decline of nature’s support systems, living safely during a pandemic and more. It comes with an often funny personal story and some useful ideas. All in a 5 to 10 minute read in your inbox once a week. It’s FREE! (for now) No ads. No spam.
Learning how to stay safe during the pandemic is a new experience for us all. Here’s a bonus issue of Need to Know (NtK). It’s part of the premiere Need to Know issue Navigating Safely Through The Pandemic which has been very popular.
“This is one of the best articles I've read to date on assessing and understanding your risks with regards to COVID-19 and I've written the protocols for all my staff and commercial properties.” — NtK subscriber
We’re just six months into the pandemic. There are now some rules in some places, like wearing masks inside public spaces. Unfortunately it’s far too soon to have anything like a Safe Pandemic Manual to study or a set of safety rules to follow. We’re all trying to figure out the best ways to stay safe. One thing we need to know is that like driving, pandemic risk is situational. In other words the risk of catching the disease, as well as the consequences, depends on the circumstances you happen to be in.
A COVID-19 mantra: Time and Place, People and Space
Ontario biostatistician Ryan Imgrund has an easy to remember catch phrase or “need-to-know mantra” that can help us evaluate the risks of various situations to help reduce the risk of catching the virus: Time And Place, People And Space.
Let me break it down:
The longer you’re in a place with other people the higher the risk. A 10-minute conversation on a sidewalk is low risk, a two-hour chat on the porch is higher.
Indoors is risker than outdoors. A stuffy, crowded bar is way risker than a group picnic in a park.
The more people in a place the bigger the risk which Imgrund’s chart clearly shows. Being with a few COVID-savvy people is lower risk. These are folks with a tight social bubble of 10 people or fewer; who avoid all high risk activities, and regularly wear masks and wash their hands.
Keep your distance: two meters or one caribou.
To these four I would add two more considerations:
You could also be risking the health of family and friends. Will you spend time with older or immune-compromised people or interact with someone who has contact with others with high risk? Better to be a COVID shield than a COVID spreader.
The amount of virus circulating in your community should be an over-arching consideration when trying to determine the risks of any activity. Let’s say there are a 1000 new active cases this week where you live, there’s likely 5 and possibly 10 times more potentially infectious people. If you live in a city of five million your risks are low so outdoor patios and small gatherings should be ok. However if you live in a town of 25,000 with 1000 new cases, stay home until that number is far less.
Here’s the full mantra:
Time And Place, People And Space, Caseload and Consequence
It’s a lot to think about before stepping out the door. There was also a lot to think about the first time we drove on our own too. Knowing how to navigate our way safely through the pandemic will get easier in time. Ignoring the risks, like ignoring the rules of road, is dumb and dangerous to you and your loved ones.
Until an effective vaccine is widely available this is where we all are. Hope this helps.
P.S. I researched and wrote this to help me wrap my head around how to live safely and with less stress during the pandemic. I’m sharing it because we’re all in this mess together. I hope you will share it too.