Let’s talk about risk.


It is a tricky word, one that reminds you simultaneously of a board game and serious health matters. But risk is a key element of everyone’s life, something that we all must navigate daily, whether we realize it.


As we enter a new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic, one in which we are now allowed to circulate through our communities with fewer restrictions, risk is on many of our minds. What does it mean to go into a grocery store or shop? How about interacting with friends and family face to face? Am I putting myself or others in danger?


Here’s the deal: We have solid advice out there to help us manage risk. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has an entire section on its coronavirus response website about ways to reduce your risk.


Regardless of reopening phase, these recommendations hold.


Stay home. Practice great hygiene. If you are out in public, keep your distance and wear a cloth mask. Cover your cough. Make sure to disinfect frequently touched areas. Yes, these can be tedious guidelines to maintain. Yes, it is exhausting. But we know that they work.


Masks, in particular, have been shown to be more effective than expected against COVID-19. Why? Because we now know that a substantial amount of transmission is done when people are asymptomatic — they have no temperature, no cough, no sign of disease. What’s more, some number of people suffering from coronavirus never become ill. So wearing a mask, even if you think you are healthy, could well prevent someone else’s illness.


Managing risk in this situation is difficult. We will all have to do it at some point, if we haven’t already. We will return to workplaces, go back to stores, walk down a crowded street. In each case, we will face choices about how to manage that risk.


Some of us may choose to stay home and limit social contact for as long as possible. That’s perhaps the safest route. Others may choose to go out — and that’s OK. What’s not OK is if these people don’t realize the risk they may pose to others, or that others may pose to them.


Follow the medical advice of those who have devoted their lives to treating infectious disease. Manage your risk in the way that protects you and those around you.


It is the only way for us all to move forward.