COVID-19 News

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

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

Coronavirus COVID-19
COVID-19 cases are spiking — just in time for the holidays. Photo courtesy of the CDC
TMA holiday risk chart covid-19
The new risk-based guideline chart has been updated with seasonal activites. Courtesy of Texas Medical Association
Coronavirus COVID-19
TMA holiday risk chart covid-19

The Texas Medical Association has released its COVID-19 holiday risk chart, a ranking of popular activities based on how likely one is to contract the novel coronavirus.

With infections spiking in Austin and across the country, the chart was updated from its original version with input from physicians on the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and the TMA Infectious Diseases Committee. Together, the group identified popular seasonal activities and the 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 chart to help you choose your activities wisely this holiday season," the Austin-based association said in a November 17 tweet accompanying the new chart.

Using a ranking of 1 to 10, the chart measures everything from viewing holiday lights with family in a car (1) to attending an outdoor public tree lighting ceremony (4) to celebrating New Year's Eve at a bar or club (10). 

The chart also measures the thing we're perhaps most worried about during the holiday season: spending time with loved ones.

Based on the TMA risk chart (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) run a moderate risk, while taking photos with Santa (7), shopping in-person on Black Friday (8), and attending a large indoor celebration with singing (10) pose a moderate-to-high risk.

The Centers for Disease Control issued similar holiday guidelines on November 11, encouraging people to limit interactions with those outside their immediate household. If possible, host gatherings outside and keep all non-family members at least six feet apart. Masks should be worn unless eating or drinking and especially when in airports, bus stations, train stations, gas stations, and rest stops.

Adding to the holiday humbug are Austin's COVID-19 cases, which have increased more than 100 percent over the past 14 days, according to Austin-Travis County Interim Health Director Dr. Mark Escott. Because of this dramatic jump, Escott is recommending the city return to Stage 4 guidelines earlier than planned, according to KXAN.

Based on Austin's COVID-19 risk chart, the Stage 4 restrictions would suggest limiting non-essential travel, limiting social gatherings to two people, and avoiding dining or shopping unless it's an essential businesses. Austin has been in the Stage 3 restrictions since late August.