Is it safe to go out yet?

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  • Is it safe to go to the grocery store? And, how often is okay?
  • How safe is it to fly on a commercial airline? Get a haircut? Go out to dinner?
  • Should I avoid a friend whose daughter works where someone tested positive?

We now have to factor a new set of often unknown or not fully known risks into our everyday decisions. Here are some guidelines from Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor at Harvard Health Publishing.

If you’re considering relaxing restrictions in your work or social life, consider these three important steps:

And then what? Weigh the four Ps to round out your reckoning of risks and benefits:

  • Personal risk tolerance. Is your mantra “better safe than sorry”? Or is it closer to “you only live once”?
  • Personality. If you’re an extrovert, you may be willing to dial down your restrictions (and accept more risk) because the alternative feels like torture. For introverts, limiting social interactions may not seem so bad.
  • Priorities. If you put a high priority on dining out, getting your hair done, or getting a tattoo, it’s a bigger sacrifice to put these off than it is for someone who doesn’t care about these things.
  • Pocketbook. Although the pandemic affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally: some can weather the economic impact better than others. As a result, keeping one’s business closed or staying home from work are less appealing for some than others.

Finally, listen to the experts and their recommendations, especially when they change in response to new information. Spread out your risk: if you go to the grocery store today, put off your haircut to another day — in this way, the “virus dose” may be lower than if you’re out doing multiple errands among other people over a few hours.

Listen to those you live with. They’re affected by your decisions, too.

~ Heteroclite

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