Navigating the safety of day-to-day activities in a COVID-19 world

a woman pushing a grocery cart down a grocery aisle.

COVID-19 is still present in Oregon, but we now have multiple tools to fight infection and slow the spread. We have widely accessible and highly effective vaccines, proven interventions like masking and distancing, and treatments that are becoming more available every day.

With Oregon’s mask requirements lifting on March 12 in most public indoor spaces and schools, mask-wearing, like getting a vaccine, will become a mostly personal choice. Some businesses may still require masks, some schools may choose to require masks and masks are still required on public transportation and in health care settings.

We know that masks protect both the person wearing the mask as well as those around them, so you might be wondering if, based on your personal situation, you should continue to wear a mask. It’s OK to still be anxious or even scared, even if you know you’re doing everything that experts say will keep you safe.

Asking yourself certain questions might help you assess your personal risk based on established pandemic guidelines, as well as your own comfort level. These questions won’t always apply to everyone, but they may help you decide whether to participate in social events or wear a mask in public spaces going forward.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have any conditions that may increase my risk of severe illness from COVID-19? That can include diabetes, chronic illnesses, taking medication that weakens the immune system and more. If so, health experts highly recommend you continue to wear a mask in public places. See a complete list of risk factors on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
  • Am I up to date on my COVID-19 vaccinations? If not, health experts highly recommend you continue to wear a mask in public places.
  • Am I unvaccinated? If not, health experts highly recommend you continue to wear a mask in public places.
  • If I were to become infected with the COVID-19 virus, can I take 5–10 days off work while I isolate, which is recommended by the CDC? If not, you may want to mask up to protect against infection.
  • Do I live in a multi-generational household? If so, check out this guide for living safely together.

When attending an event, running an errand or otherwise being around other people, ask yourself:

photo of parents and a child having a picnic in a park with their masks pulled down under their chins
  • Is the event indoors or outdoors? COVID-19 is less likely to spread outdoors. Also, as indoor masking requirements lift, you will likely encounter indoor spaces where only a few people are wearing a mask. You might want to carry a mask with you just in case.
  • Does attending the event require proof of vaccination and booster doses? If so, how is that policy being enforced? Some event venues or restaurants may check vaccination status at the door, while some rely on people disclosing their vaccination status honestly. If you’ve been invited to a gathering at someone’s home, it’s OK to ask them whether they’re requiring guests to be vaccinated.
  • Does the location require a negative COVID-19 test? Some may require a PCR test or some may accept either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test. Both tests are accurate at catching positive COVID-19 cases, but both can also give false negative results, especially rapid antigen tests.
  • If I were to become infected with the COVID-19 virus, who might I risk spreading the virus to? If you live with or plan to visit other people, consider their risk levels. Are they immunocompromised? Are they older than 65? Are they too young to be vaccinated or unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons? If so, you might want to limit your risk by masking in indoor places or avoiding large indoor crowds.

If your job requires you to interact with the public or sit in an office, here are some ways to better protect yourself:

  • Get vaccinated if not already.
  • Get up to date with your COVID-19 vaccine doses. People who have received all recommended doses (including a booster dose) are many times less likely to get extremely sick or require hospitalization if infected.
  • Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask like an N95 or KN95 while at work. Here’s a guide on how to avoid counterfeits while mask shopping.