Life Is Now a Dark Game of Would You Rather
A scientific way to assess pandemic threats
So much of life now seems like a rather dark game of Would You Rather? This summer, my husband and I asked ourselves: Would we rather send our kids back to school where they’ll benefit from traditional instruction and social interactions — but also potentially pick up and bring home a viral infection? Or would we rather keep them safe at home, knowing they will be miserable — and, thus, in true teen fashion, do their best to make us miserable, too? Talk about lose-lose.
You likely now have the option of going out to eat at a restaurant, letting your kids participate in Little League, or even grabbing a couple of beers somewhere. Even as these opportunities to get out and about become available, Covid-19 is still very much with us. And that means we each have to choose where we are willing to take risks. Is in-person school worth it? What about a social get-together? A couple hours of work at your favorite coffee shop? An early morning workout at the gym?
Just how should we be doing the calculus on this new risk assessment math? Here’s a two-step approach:
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Frame the question
“Just because certain things are now open, doesn’t mean those things are always safe — there is still substantial risk involved,” says Leana Wen, MD, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. “As people make decisions about doing different things, it’s important they understand that any risk you take is additive. So, if you engage in one area that’s risky, you should try to reduce risk in other areas when you can.”
Deciding where it makes sense to engage, however, is challenging. What makes these risk assessments even tougher is the fact that it’s so easy for our decisions to be swayed by factors like stress, what our social groups are doing, and the difficulty of parsing so much contradictory information. Mauricio Delgado, head of the Social and Affective…