Risks & benefits of everyday activities

Last updated December 29, 2021.

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Risks and Benefits infographic

Throughout the pandemic, we have all had to make decisions about how to stay safe while taking care of our social, emotional, and physical needs. We’ve had to weigh the risks and benefits of each activity while COVID-19 is circulating in our communities. It isn’t always easy to make these choices. This webpage is intended to help empower you to make the decision that is right for you.

Different people may have different risk factors depending on their specific situation. This is not a one-size-fits-all guide, but a series of suggestions for how to think about risk during the pandemic. 

This page is meant to help you consider the risks and benefits of optional in-person activities. It does not apply to work, education, or child care, as those are usually not optional.

When deciding whether to participate in an in-person social activity, consider:
  • Do you have the highest level of protection against COVID-19? Have you gotten your third dose if you’re due for one? Are other people participating in the activity vaccinated?
    • Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 greatly reduces your risk of getting sick and needing to be hospitalized. Vaccinated people are also less likely to spread COVID-19. 
    • Getting a third dose gives you the highest level of protection against COVID-19. You should get a third dose if you are 16 or older and it has been six months since your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna. If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should get a dose of either Pfizer or Moderna two months or more after you first got vaccinated.
  • How much is COVID-19 spreading in the community?
  • What are the local orders in the community?
  • Do you or people you live with have any extra risk of serious illness from COVID-19?
    • People at high risk of severe disease should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of the activities in which they choose to participate.
    • In general, the older you are, the more health conditions you have, and the more severe your conditions are, the more important it is to take precautions. Get vaccinated, get your third dose, wear a mask, keep six feet of distance from people who don’t live with you, and wash your hands regularly.
  • How many people does the activity involve?
    • The smaller the group size and the larger the space, the lower the risk.
    • Being in a big group with people who aren't distancing or wearing masks raises your risk, especially if you are also unvaccinated.
    • Some people who have the virus will not have symptoms, but can still be contagious.
  • Is the activity taking place outside? Can you keep six feet of distance from other people?
    • Outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones.
    • The closer you are to other people who may be infected, the greater your risk of getting sick.
    • Keeping distance from other people is especially important for people with certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk.
  • How long does the activity take?
    • Spending more time with people who may be infected increases your risk of becoming infected.
  • How will you get there?
    • Public transit can put you in close contact with others and increase your risk.
    • Traveling in cars with people who don’t live with you can also increase your risk. If you are sharing a car with someone outside your household, consider wearing a mask or opening the windows to increase airflow.
  • If you are exposed to or get sick with COVID-19, will you have to miss work or school?
    • If you get sick, you will need to isolate. If you are exposed, you may need to quarantine.
  • How valuable is this activity to you?
    • If something doesn’t add significant value but does add risk, reconsider.
Stay home if you are sick. Get your COVID-19 vaccine and third dose when it’s time.

If you participate in an in-person activity, make it safer:

  • Wear a mask.

  • Socialize outside or in well-ventilated indoor spaces.

  • Add Exposure Notifications to your phone.

  • Consider ordering free at-home COVID-19 tests and testing yourself before or after an activity.

  • Spend less time.
    • For example, bring a shopping list to be efficient. Get your hair cut, but not shampooed or colored.
  • Avoid unnecessary contact.
    • For example, use curbside pickup and drop-off when available, and pay over the phone (if it’s not advertised, ask). Use less crowded spaces for outdoor activities.
    • Shop when you know stores will be less crowded. Avoid activities during peak hours.
  • Be flexible.
    • Change your plans if a situation seems unsafe or you feel uncomfortable about the risk.
  • Be assertive.
    • No matter what other people say, follow your own plan to stay safe.
    • Err on the side of less risk to both yourself and others.