Risky Business

How’s Your COVID-19 Risk Tolerance Looking These Days?

Here's some handy shorthand to help you navigate a post-shelter-at-home world.

By Julia Silverman May 28, 2020

In recent weeks, faced with the reality that the summer camp and vacation schedule I’d spent hours carefully constructing back in December was now a wash, I hatched a tentative plan to help ensure that the entire family didn't lose our collective minds this summer. The idea: Expand our quarantine bubble, ever so carefully, to a few select families with same-aged kids whom I knew to have been scrupulous about social distancing.  We could swap kid care days, and in between, the parents could actually get some work done. 

All was proceeding according to my carefully laid plan, until, with this arrangement now imminent, my husband finally tuned in. It turns out, his tolerance for risk is a lot lower than mine—suffice it to say, we had a knock-down, drag-out fight over the entire proposal, culminating in a grouchy détente when we agreed to have an information-gathering conversation with the other families via Zoom before moving forward. 

All of this—combined with Wednesday’s announcement that Multnomah County hoped to begin a reopening of bars, restaurants, gyms, and salons by June 12—got me thinking about different attitudes toward risk, not just in my household, but in everyone’s.  

As we move forward into an unpredictable, post-shelter-at-home world, a shorthand seems called for, a quick and dirty way to tell whether the people you meet when you’re walking down the street share your mindset. No judgment implied—except maybe if you fall in the bottom category, in which case, you probably have a rally to attend in Salem. 

Have a look and figure out where you lie on Portland Monthly’s handy scale of risk tolerance. (And note: This assumes you are not an essential worker.) 

Red alert: 

  • I mask it up the second I go out my front door, even if I’m just going to weed in the yard. 
  • But really, I’ve barely left the house since mid-March. 
  • Contactless delivery only, please, and then only of groceries and other essentials. 
  • When I bring those groceries and other essentials inside, I wipe them down, end to end. Nonperishables I don’t touch for three days; then they get the wipe down treatment. 
  • I’ve only seen my nearest and dearest in person since the shelter in place order came down from Gov. Kate Brown. Everyone else can find me for yet another Zoom happy hour, if they must. 
  • No takeout. Not worth the risk. 
  • Not only have I accepted that the kids won’t go to summer camp, but I also am not planning on sending them back to school in the fall, assuming that’s even a thing. 

Orange alert: 

  • I’ll leave the house, but only with a mask on, whether I’ll be inside or outside. 
  • Fred Meyer Clicklist/curbside pickup is my salvation, and I know that you’ve got to pounce around 10:30 pm on a Monday to snag a spot. 
  • I try to keep my online orders minimal but have cracked and ordered one or two nonessential items.  
  • Takeout in limited quantities, but everything gets replated outside the house, the containers are thrown away, and then I wash my hands for a solid three minutes before sitting down to eat.
  • I’ll wave at friends from a safe distance of at least 20 feet. 

Yellow alert: 

  • I wear a mask any time I go into a place of business, or anytime I’m not sure I’ll be able to maintain at least a six-foot buffer from others, even outside, like, say, Mount Tabor on a sunny Saturday. But if I’m just out for a walk in the neighborhood, or on a bike, I’ll bring but won’t wear my mask. 
  • I go to the grocery store and pharmacy myself, but only ones that I know to be taking safety precautions. 
  • Takeout twice a week, and maybe I’ll place a pre-order at the coffee shop and pick it up from their to-go window. I’m not a monk. 
  • I’ll go on socially distant walks with friends, or meet them in a not-too-crowded park, where we will spread out our own blankets a reasonable distance from each other or attend a six-feet-apart block party. 
  • No summer camps this year, so I might hire a sitter or work out childcare swaps with trusted friends (ahem).  

Green alert: 

  • Yeah, I’ll mask up, but only when a business requires me to do so in order to enter. 
  • Enough with the window and online shopping. If Gov. Brown says local retail shops statewide can reopen for customers, that’s good enough for me.  
  • I’m not an essential worker, but I still go to the office as needed. 
  • Bring on the takeout. All the takeout. 
  • These children are going to summer camp. Some of them are still open, after all.

Beige alert: 

  • Mask? I don’t need no stinking mask. 
  • I bought a ping-pong table and set it up in the front yard and am inviting my fraternity brothers over to play beer pong on the regular. 
  • Last weekend, I drove over to Clackamas County for a haircut and a beer. 
  • You bet I’ve been to the coast since mid-March. The Gorge, too. 
  • Quarantine? What quarantine?  
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