Millions of Americans are wondering where they face the highest risk of contracting coronavirus.
On the brink of summer and amid reopenings throughout the country, many states are seeing spikes in COVID-19 infection rates.
MLive spoke to four public health experts from Michigan to create a list of public spaces and the level of risk they pose.
According to the site, the doctors took into account five factors in weighing the risk of any given place:
—Whether it’s inside or outside
—Proximity to others
—Likelihood of compliance
—Personal risk level
These are the locations ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 posing the highest risk.
Bars and large music venues
Risk level: 9
Bars and large music venues both pose a significant risk of contracting COVID-19, according to experts.
And one of the riskiest factors common to both? The presence of alcohol.
"After a couple of drinks, they're starting to feel a little more invincible," said Dr. Nasir Husain, Henry Ford Macomb medical director for infection prevention. "And that's when the trouble starts."
In addition to drinking, a high-risk activity common at large venues is singing.
"Singing is a really effective way of spreading the virus," said Dr. Mimi Emig, a retired infectious disease specialist with Spectrum Health. According to the expert, speaking or singing loudly has the potential to emit more of the virus into the surrounding area.
Gyms, stadiums, amusement parks, churches, buffets
Risk level: 8
A common feature of these locations is that they include gatherings of large groups of people that includes talking, singing and, in the case of the gym, even breathing.
According to Husain, people emit more respiratory secretions when working out and breathing heavily. Gyms are also places where it may be difficult to work out while wearing a mask, or to adequately distance the necessary amount.
At buffets, people run the risk of sharing utensils. While they are not as risky as bars for COVID, according to the experts, they still certainly pose a significant risk without redesigns aimed at limiting the flow of traffic.
Public pools, schools, contact sports
Risk level: 7
Interestingly, the experts who participated in this poll agreed that many outdoor recreational activities are low risk.
However, contact sports like basketball can elevate participants' chances of contracting the virus.
"You're banging into each other," Sims said. "There's a chance for masks to be ripped off. People may not want to use masks, because as you start breathing harder, the masks become more and more uncomfortable."
Since masks aren't waterproof, pools certainly pose a threat as well. Additionally, it is unclear how effective chlorine in pool water is against the virus.
"We don't have good data to show how the virus would behave in a pool," Husain said. "Pool water does have chlorine in it, but I don't think it's high enough to be very effective in completely reducing risk to zero."
For the sheer volume of students who are typically within six feet of each other for hours at a time, schools pose a definite risk as well, according to the experts polled.
Casinos, restaurants, playgrounds, salons, barbershops, movie theaters
Risk level: 6
While these locations certainly include large gatherings of people, there is potential to space visitors out, as in restaurants, movie theaters, or casinos with open floor plans.
By their very nature, hair salons and barbershops pose a significant risk. But according to the experts, they can be made somewhat less risky if everyone is required to wear masks and measures like closing the waiting area off, making guests wait outside or in their cars.
Planes, malls, beaches, backyard barbecues and bowling alleys
Risk level: 5
The experts questioned for this poll differed on projects risk level of planes, with two calling them medium risk, one calling them low risk and another calling them high risk.
"That's actually pretty safe, the air is very well filtered on airplanes," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, McLaren Health Care medical director for infection prevention. "As long as someone's not obviously sick, I'm going to give that a 3."
But Emig said there are other factors to consider, including the fact that planes can gather large groups of people for hours, and that may don't know how to wear face masks correctly.
Offices, doctor's offices, outside dining, busy downtown areas
Risk level: 4
While offices can be adjusted by enforcing mask requirements and distancing measures, the experts agree that working from home is still safest.
Doctors' and dentists' offices both hold a level of risk. Moving forward, waiting rooms will likely need to instate distancing protocol to reduce risk. One expert even warns of she perceived as significant risk at the dentist.
"Dental cleaning aerosolizes what's in your mouth," Emig said. "If somebody unknowingly has the infection, that virus is going to get aerosolized."
Additionally, outside dining and busy downtown areas still pose risk, even despite being outside. As long as there are gatherings of large crowds, there are risks.
"Anything with crowds is bad. Try to avoid crowds," Sims said. "We're going to need to learn to thin out the crowds."
Grocery stores, hotels, museums, libraries, campsites
Risk level: 3
As grocery stores are one of the businesses that stayed open and had to adapt to the virus, they are relatively lower on risk — as long as safety protocol is maintained. Masking in groceries is key, according to Sims. If customers aren't wearing masks, the risk is higher.
While certain factors — like how well your room was cleaned or who stayed in it before you — aren't so significant in hotels, visitors should take care during check-in and hotel dining. Emig suggests opting for contactless check-in and skipping the breakfast if you can.
Emig also said that libraries with museums, with their open spaces, high ceiling and ability to enforce mask requirements and distancing protocols, exhibit lower COVID risk.
Gas station, exercising outside
Risk level: 2
As coronavirus mainly spread through the air or through close contact with other people, the gas station is relatively safe, the experts agreed. There, customers are outdoors, not close to others and not present in the location for long — all good news when it comes to coronavirus risk.
And don't feel the need to use social distancing as an excuse not to exercise. According to the experts, walking, running and biking on trails are low risk because you don't come into contact with many people, and when you do, it isn't for long. Still, Husain advises keeping a distance when you pass an individual running in the other direction.
Getting takeout, playing tennis
Risk level: 1
Ordering grub for takeout is low risk, the experts, especially as more restaurant are enforcing safety measures like contactless delivery.
They also say that tennis, which is played outdoors, spaced apart, with 2 to 4 players, is not a big deal.