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VERIFY: Coronavirus risk scores aren't official, but do come from medical professionals

A Facebook post scoring coronavirus risk levels of different activities uses the averages of scores given by four Michigan public health experts.

A Facebook post with thousands of shares scored a list of 36 activities by the risk level associated with COVID-19 spread.

The post claimed that the scores came from four Michigan public health experts, and said the score was an average of the experts’ figures.

But is this post trustworthy?

From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level Four Michigan public health experts assess the risk various activities pose to spreading coronavirus. Dr. Matthew...

THE QUESTION

Is this a trustworthy list ranking activities by their coronavirus risk?

THE ANSWER

The information attached to the post is real. The scores did come from four Michigan public health experts from an interview with a news outlet there. The scores are an average of the experts’ scores.

However, these scores aren’t official and there was some disagreement between the experts on how things should be scored. So while there is credibility behind the people scoring them, you should take it more as a general guide rather than as an exact scoring system.

WHAT WE FOUND

The four public health experts who scored these activities were interviewed by MLive, who posted the average of their scores and quotes from the experts about some of the activities.

These weren’t officials with the state of Michigan and they didn’t always agree on how at-risk certain activities were. They don’t necessarily represent the consensus of medical professionals.

Credit: AP
People gather at cafe tables placed in the closed parking lane on Hanover Street, Friday, June 12, 2020, in the North End neighborhood of Boston. The city has given temporary permission for restaurants to use public streets and sidewalks for outdoor seating due to concern about the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

For example, MLive said of airplanes, “There were varying opinions on the safety of flying in an airplane during a pandemic – two experts called it medium risk, one said it's low risk and the other side it's high risk.”

Even when experts did agree something was generally high risk or generally low risk, they didn’t give the activity the exact same score.

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That’s not to say the risk scores aren’t helpful at all. The list gives you a general idea of what may be a riskier activity, and what might be less. You should probably be a bit more skeptical of activities that got a score in the middle, such as airplanes with a 5, as it could mean the experts didn’t agree if it was a high risk or low risk activity.

So this is a helpful guideline, but don’t take the results as gospel. 

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