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Charts rank COVID-19 risk involved in more than 60 activities | View lists

An infectious disease expert at Wash U. broke down how risky the activities are with and without masks and social distancing

ST. LOUIS — From going to the park, eating at a restaurant and visiting popular attractions, St. Louisans are caught between wanting a sense of normalcy and weighing the potential of being exposed to COVID-19.

5 On Your Side reached out to health experts at Washington University to help break down the risks of several popular activities, including many summertime favorites in the St. Louis area.

Dr. Andrew Janowski, who’s a Washington University infectious disease specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, ranked activities on a scale of 1-10, with one being the lowest risk for exposure to the coronavirus and 10 being the highest. He said some activities are inherently safe, while others are significantly impacted on whether people practice social distancing and wear masks.

Dr. Janowski gave a classic St. Louis example to demonstrate the difference. Riding in an Arch tram carries a low to moderate risk level (4) when you’re in it all by yourself, but the risk doubles (8) when you’re in the pod with strangers and social distancing can’t be practiced.

As shown in the graphics below, the number of activities in the high-risk levels dramatically decreases when social distancing and masks are used.

However, even with everyone wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance of 6 feet, the risk still remained high for going to a Cardinals game or even enjoying the action across the street inside Ballpark Village.

Also, nothing ranked in Risk Level 1-3 when masks aren't used and social distancing isn't in play.

St. Louis activities ranked without social distancing/mask wearing:

Credit: KSDK

St. Louis activities ranked with social distancing/mask wearing:

Credit: KSDK

In general, the risk level of an activity increases as you move from outdoor activities with participation of a few people – like camping – to outdoor activities where a crowd is expected – like at a concert.

The COVID-19 risk increases even more when shared items – like sports equipment – are involved. Indoor activities ramp up the risk. However, the exposure at indoor places like salons and gyms can be decreased when masks are used, even though social distancing can’t be maintained.

There is another element that increases the exposure risk no matter where an activity is: alcohol. Drinks lower people’s inhibitions, their ability to think clearly and fully consider the impact of their actions on themselves or others, Dr. Janowski said.

General activities ranked without social distancing/mask wearing:

Credit: KSDK

General activities ranked with social distancing/mask wearing:

Credit: KSDK

Dr. Janowski said the riskiest activities without a mask or social distancing were going to a movie, going to church with more than 100 people in attendance, going to a concert and going to an event at a sports stadium.

Even the least risky activities have a risk level of at least four when no one is wearing a mask or practicing social distancing, Dr. Janowski said. That changes dramatically once those factors are in play.

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