Experts rank holiday activities that put Austin at risk for COVID-19

The Texas Medical Association released their COVID-19 Vacation Risk Chart, a ranking of the most popular activities based on how likely you are to contract the novel coronavirus.

With infections on the rise in Austin and across the country, the chart has been updated from its original version with input from doctors on the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and TMA Infectious Diseases Committee. Together, the group identified popular seasonal activities and calculated the risk of spreading the virus.

“It’s back! The TMA # COVID19 Task Force has developed a new version of our popular risk assessment table to help you choose your activities wisely this holiday season,” the Austin-based association said in a tweet on Nov. 17, which is attached to the new table.

Ranking from 1 to 10, the table measures everything from displaying Christmas lights with the family in a car (1) to attending an outdoor public tree lighting ceremony (4) to celebrating New Year’s Eve in a bar or club ( 10).

The chart also measures what we might be most concerned about during the holiday season: spending time with loved ones.

Based on the TMA risk map (and pretty much all scientific experts), it’s safer to only interact with your immediate household this year. Typical activities like decorating a gingerbread house with another household (4) or traveling by plane to visit family or friends (5) come with a moderate risk while taking pictures with Santa (7) and on the Black Friday (8) shop in person. Participation in a large indoor party with singing (10) carries a medium to high risk.

The Centers for Disease Control issued similar holiday guidelines on Nov. 11 to encourage people to limit interaction with those outside their immediate household. If possible, hold outdoor gatherings and keep all non-family members at least three feet apart. Masks should be worn unless they are eating or drinking, especially at airports, bus stops, train stations, gas stations, and rest stops.

According to Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s interim health director, joins Austin’s COVID-19 cases, which have increased more than 100 percent in the past 14 days. Because of that dramatic leap, Escott recommends that the city return to Level 4 guidelines earlier than planned, according to KXAN.

Based on Austin’s COVID-19 risk table, the level 4 restrictions would suggest restricting non-essential travel, restricting social gatherings to two, and avoiding dining or shopping unless it is an essential business. Austin has been in Phase 3 since late August.

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