As the pandemic rages on, people across the country are growing anxious for normal life to resume. Some states have already opened up, while others are beginning to make plans for how and when to do it safely. While the timeline may vary from state to state, all of us will eventually have to weigh our personal safety against the risks. To do that, it’s helpful to know more about which situations are the most likely to expose you to the virus.


Early on in the outbreak, an asymptomatic diner had lunch at an indoor restaurant in Guangzhou, China. Approximately 50% of the people at the infected person’s table became sick over the next 7 days. 75% of the people on the next downwind table became infected and 2 of the 7 people on the upwind table were infected.  However, no one at the tables that were outside of the air conditioner’s airflow became ill. This suggests that air circulation may play a role in spreading the virus.

Proper ventilation and high-quality air purifiers may reduce the risk, but the best option, besides not eating out, is for well-spaced outdoor seating.


Work environments where people are working in densely packed rooms have been the source of many outbreaks.  The meatpacking industry has been hit especially hard.

But, it’s not only factories that spread disease,  workers in office environments have also gotten sick. At a call center in South Korea, one infected employee infected 94 people on their floor. This seems to support the theory that being in an enclosed space, sharing the same air for a prolonged period increases your chance of becoming infected. Working from home whenever possible is still the best way to limit exposure. If you need to return to the office, maintain big distances from other people, ask about how your company is keeping the air clean, and wear a mask.

Social Gatherings

A recent study by the CDC gave a detailed look at how social gatherings can aid the spread of COVID-19.  The study traced one carrier of COVID who attended a funeral and a birthday party three days apart, before major social distancing policies were in place.  Not only did that one person transmit COVID to 16 partygoers, but they may also be responsible for wider spread within the Chicago community,

Of course, it’s best to avoid gatherings completely until the virus is under control, but if your state allows for events and you are not willing to wait, consider holding the event outdoors, limiting the number of guests and having party goers wear masks.

Sporting Events

While most sporting events continue to be canceled, there is no guarantee that they will be safe to attend, even after the shutdown ends.  The high contact, crowded environment of most sporting events makes them ideal places for the virus to spread.  An indoor curling event in Canada resulted in 24 of the 72 attendees becoming infected.  If sports begin to open up again, spectators may be at high risk, especially for indoor games.

The Good News

Outdoor transmission appears to be very low.  In fact, only .3% of traced infections have occurred outside. Walking, biking, and most other outdoor activities in areas without a lot of other people are the safest way to enjoy some summer fun without risking your family’s health.