Risks & benefits of everyday activities

Last updated April 6, 2021.

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Risks and Benefits infographic

We recognize some people have privileges and resources that allow them to choose how and when to interact in person, while others must work to provide the goods, services, and care we depend on.

Right now, you are allowed to participate in most in-person social activities with prevention precautions. Activities that are open should follow guidelines aimed at lowering the potential for disease spread.

While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, the suggestions here are meant to help empower you to make the best decisions -- to weigh the health risks to yourself and others with the benefits to your social, emotional, and physical needs, and the needs of others in the economy. Activities listed are limited to optional in-person activities and do not include work, education, or child care, as those are often not optional.

When deciding whether to participate in an in-person social activity, consider:
  • 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 -- especially if they have not been vaccinated -- should aim to limit social interactions as much as they can and carefully weigh the benefits of the activities they choose to participate in.
  • Have the people participating in the activity been vaccinated?
    • Fully vaccinated people may now visit with other fully vaccinated people in small groups without wearing masks or physically distancing.
    • Fully vaccinated people may also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease without wearing masks or physically distancing.
    • Fully vaccinated people should continue to avoid medium to large gatherings with people from different households.
  • How many people does the activity involve?
    • The smaller the group size and the larger the space, the lower the risk.
    • Being in a group with people who aren't distancing or wearing masks raises your risk.
    • Many people who have the virus will not have symptoms, but can still be contagious.
  • Is the activity inside or outside? Can you keep 6 feet between yourself and others?
    • Outdoor activities pose less risk than the same activity indoors.
    • 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 at higher risk of severe illness.
  • How long does the activity take?
    • Spending more time with people who may be infected increases your risk of becoming infected.
    • Spending more time with people increases their risk of becoming infected if there is any chance that you may already be infected.
  • How will I get there?
    • Public transit can put you in close contact with others and increase your risk.
    • Traveling in cars with non-household members can increase your risk.
  • If I get sick with COVID-19, will I have to miss work or school?
    • If you get sick, you will need to isolate, and if you are exposed, you'll 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. If you decide to participate in an in-person social activity, make it safer:
  • Remember the big three.
    • Maintain physical distance (6 feet).
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Wear a mask.
  • Take supplies.
    • A mask.
    • Tissues.
    • Hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) and disinfecting wipes, if possible.
  • 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.
    • Choose to shop when you know stores will be less crowded, and avoid activities during peak hours.
  • Be flexible.
    • Change your plans if a situation looks crowded or you feel uncomfortable about the risk.
  • Be assertive.
    • Regardless of outside pressure, follow your own plan to maintain the risk level that fits your situation.
    • Err on the side of less risk to both yourself and others.
  • Don’t touch.
    •  Avoid touching things if you don’t have to, and clean your hands afterward when you do.
    • Try not to touch your face until you wash your hands.
    • Avoid sharing items with others.

    Risk considerations for selected in-person social activities

    For all activities:

    • Stay home when you are sick or if you think you have been exposed.
    • Wear a mask when feasible.
    • Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and non-household members.
    • Clean your hands frequently.
    • Avoid crowded situations, and situations where others may not follow these precautions.

    Activity Risk Considerations
    Camping Lower

    Lowest if you camp members of your household.

    • Plan well to avoid unanticipated stops and interactions.
    • Respect the community and follow local guidelines and restrictions. 
    Outdoor exercise and recreation Lower

    Outdoor activity is generally lower risk, and passing by people briefly is lower risk. 

    Vacation home, hotel or motel Lower

    Once you are in the lodging, the risk is lower.

    • Consider the risks of travel and the people you may encounter getting there; car travel with household members is lowest risk.
    • Try to plan ahead and take the necessary food and supplies.
    • Think about what you will do if you become ill while you are away.
    • Do a personal risk/benefit analysis for activities you might participate in while away.
    • Guidance for short-term rentals
    Recreational sports Lower to higher

    It depends on the sport and the practices.

    • Outdoor singles tennis could be lower risk. Basketball and soccer, by the nature of the sport, involve close contact with others so there is some additional risk.
    • Play outside, limit the number of participants, modify rules to avoid contact, and wash hands and use disinfectant on equipment. 
    • Guidance for personal recreation
    • Guidance for organized sports

    Events and gatherings

    (weddings, funerals, concerts, festivals, sporting events, etc.)

    Lower to higher

    Imagine a volume knob. As you turn the knob up on the number of people and how close they are to each other, the risk goes up. Also, keep in mind that the more alcohol or cannabis people consume, the less they may be mindful of distancing and prevention precautions.

    • Outdoors is lower risk than indoors.
    • Lowest risk: Virtual activities, events, and gatherings.
    • More risk: Smaller in-person gatherings where individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (community, town, city, or county).
    • Higher risk: Medium in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.
    • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for people to remain 6 feet apart from each other. 
    Shopping Lower to medium

    The risk depends on whether the shopping is indoors or outdoors. Depending on how crowded the store is, it can sometimes be hard to keep your distance from others.

    Dining out Medium to higher
    • To reduce risk, dine outside.
    • Don’t linger or mingle with other parties. Wear your mask if you need to go to the restroom and when entering and leaving the restaurant.
    • Restaurants guidance
    Playground Medium
    • Playgrounds are outside, but it can sometimes be difficult to maintain physical distance between children. Surfaces are frequently touched.
    • Park and playgrounds should follow personal recreation guidance.
    • Be kind and wait for your turn.
    • Take disinfecting and hand cleaning supplies with you.
    Swimming Medium

    It’s not the water, it’s the other people. It may be hard to maintain distance in common areas; it may be challenging for other swimmers to wear masks out of the water. 

    • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
    • Strategize ways to avoid common areas and maintain distance.
    • Wear a mask when possible and bring an extra mask in case one gets wet.
    • Guidance for pool operators
    Airline travel Medium to higher

    Time spent in lines and terminals can make distancing difficult, and you may have to sit near others for long periods of time. Masking may be inconsistent. 

    • Check airlines and airports for their policies and procedures about COVID-19.
    • Check restrictions in the place you are traveling to.
    • Prepare well with enough medication to last the entire trip, plus extra in case the trip must be extended.
    • Bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
    • Consider what you would do if you became ill while you are away.
    • The risk may increase as more people become comfortable traveling.
    • Check policies about canceling due to crowded flights where social distancing is not possible.
    • Visit CDC's travel website for more information.
    Places of worship Medium to higher

    Worship services often take place indoors. Traditional services may involve activities that are higher risk, like singing.

    • Places of worship should follow guidelines; this will help minimize risk.
    • Outdoor services are safer than indoor services.
    • People in higher risk categories should carefully consider virtual alternatives.
    • Guidance for places of worship
    Personal services Medium to higher

    By nature, these activities are done in close proximity to at least one other person, usually indoors. 

    • Use personal service providers who follow guidelines.
    • Avoid services which require you to remove your mask, even for short periods of time.
    • Limit talking -- when someone is infected, talking results in more virus particles in the air. 
    • People at higher risk of severe disease individuals should consider the risks of these services carefully.
    • Personal services guidance
    Bars, breweries, nightclubs Higher

    The more alcohol or other substances people consume, the less they may be mindful of masking, distancing, and hand cleaning.

    • Limit your time at these venues and stay outdoors where you might be able to maintain distance from others.
    • Avoid crowded locations
    • People at high risk for severe disease should consider higher risk activities carefully.
    Gyms, fitness facilities Higher

    Crowd size, frequency of cleaning, and whether other people are wearing masks are all things to consider.

    Singing with groups Higher

    Singing has been shown to result in more virus particles in the air at distances much greater than 6 feet. 

    • Sing in the shower, on video chat, or outdoors while maintaining distance.