How risky are my favorite places and activities?

Families/Kids Reopening Socializing Staying Safe Travel

A: A group of Michigan-based COVID-19 experts has put together a helpful set of activity “rankings.” TL;DR: Skip the buffet. Opt for tennis instead.


Nerdy Girls are here to help you #StaySMART this summer! A refresher of our SMART principles:

S – Space. Keep your distance.
M – Mask. Keep it on.
A – Air. Opt for outside when possible.
R – Restricted. Keep socializing to a small, stable “bubble.”
T – Time. Keep it short.

Other scientists are also helpfully weighing in – for example, this expert group* from Michigan has ranked activities and places by their COVID risk level. Please note – as with most ranking systems, it’s important to hold the exact numbers lightly….given the amount of uncertainty around transmission dynamics we Nerdy Girls tend to pay attention to relative levels of risk as opposed to the actual numbers (aka “In general tennis is less risky than eating at a buffet” is a more reasonable take-away than “Every office is a 4.0000”). Being “more precise than accurate” is a grave offense in the scientific world!

These are best guesses based on (considerable!) expertise as opposed to rigorous statistical estimates. And note that there is some disagreement among the experts themselves….which is to be expected given that we’re contending with a brand-new pathogen. Indeed, we scientists worry much more when an expert signals absolute certainty about an area with considerable unknowns.
Another [editorial] note: My own personal judgement about school risk is lower, informed by articles such as the one linked to below in Ireland finding no evidence to support school-based transmission. We Nerdies promise to keep you posted as more school-specific data come out. Several of us are doing COVID advisory work for K-12 and higher ed institutions, and will stay up-to-date on the emerging evidence!

* Michigan experts and credentials

Dr. Matthew Sims, Beaumont Health, Director of Infectious Disease Research
Dr. Dennis Cunningham, McLaren Health Care, Medical Director for Infection Prevention
Dr. Mimi Emig, retired, Infectious Disease Specialist with Spectrum Health
Dr. Nasir Husain, Henry Ford Macomb, Medical Director for infection prevention

Photo credit: Marian Domansky Fisher (Facebook post photo)

Article Links:

Article about rankings

School-based surveillance data from Ireland

Link to original FB post