Now that aerosols are established as factors disseminating COVID, it is important to realize that COVID is persistent in the air. A few days back, I had a gentleman eating food in a restaurant or the patio of the restaurant. As usual, my relationship made me ask a few questions about his understanding of the disease. He said if we can eat outside food at home, why can’t we eat outside food in the restaurant.
Let us understand and analyze the situation. COVID is not foodborne, COVID is not water-borne, COVID is an airborne infection. The air around you will determine if you are likely to get COVID. In a setting such as a restaurant, this gentleman has a high probability of acquiring COVID. Factors that need to be considered while understanding your chances of getting COVID are the estimated prevalence of infection in that space, contact time and distance, and the degree of aerosolization.
The risk of infection is the same for everyone in that environment, but the consequences of infection are different depending on age, ethnicity, and comorbidities. I often cite an example – of inside and outside risk. Presume, it is snowing and the roads are all icy and slippery. Driving under such inclement conditions is fraught with severe risk. If during such times, you have an emergency at home, you still have to venture out and take care of that. However, if I say I just want to drive and see the fun, obviously it is stupidity.
Thus risk assessment becomes an important factor. Outside risk versus your own vulnerability. That also means that despite the outside risk is high, if you have a critical/essential function that needs immediate attention, you may want to consider doing that. However, if the vulnerability is high, ie. the impact is high, it also means that you want to seriously consider the probability of getting the disease. Thus likelihood and impact are important aspects that you want to consider.
Mitigation depends upon several aspects, face shields, masks (quality is important), and the time of exposure and the (presumably) pre & post-exposure mitigation you perform.
A simple approach to estimate your exposure can be shown in the below formula –
Exposure estimation = (Prevalence of the virus in the air) X (contact time) X (Distance of separation) X (inversely related to your protection mechanisms) X (your internal vulnerability).
The most significant aspect of COVID is that, as of now, SCIENCE DOES NOT HAVE A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S INTRINSIC RISK.
This is an opinion, not an advisory and you should consult your doctor to seek any advice. The author is not responsible or liable if you use this piece without consultation and advice from your doctor.