When it comes to Covid-19, we all have different levels of risk that we are comfortable with. Setting a weekly "contact budget" can make it easier to decide what risks are worth taking, says the epidemiologist Eleanor Murray
October 21, 2020
Carrie Arnold: How did you come up with the idea of a contact budget for interactions with others during the coronavirus pandemic?
Eleanor Murray: In March and April most people had clear instructions on what to do, and it wasn't very much. That made life a little uncomfortable, but it also made life easier. When things opened up, everyone had to make their own decisions about what they are comfortable with and what could be risky.
I've been thinking that there is some risk that I am comfortable with. If I go to a grocery store during a very crowded time to keep my average risk constant, I probably won't be doing anything risky the next day. We all know the idea of financial budgeting. It is easy to apply it to this situation.
How do we create a contact budget?
There are four metrics to consider. First, how much risk you can tolerate. If you or someone in your household has an illness, your tolerance will be lower.
Next, you know how nice it is to know that you can become infected and transmit that infection. We don't talk about that much, but people told me how guilty they felt afterwards.
The last two parts are the amount of contact we need for our job and for our sanity.
If you're a healthcare worker or a grocery clerk, there is one particular …