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By: Antonio Maria Rosales, OFM

As we start the SEASON OF CREATION on September 1, a Day of Thanksgiving to the Creator and our Father for the Gift of Creation, we might have some relaxation regarding the protocols. That does not mean that the virus is gone. It is still very much around, but we got to know it better in the past months, as they say, "once you know your enemy, the battle is half won." We are also getting used to face masks, distancing, face shields and hand-washing etc.

Yahoo News recently published the 37 Places you are most likely to catch Covid-19 from the Texas Medical Association, classifying the places on a scale of 1 (low risk) to 9 (high risk). I noted that almost 1/3rd of the places have some association with nature directly or indirectly. In parentheses I added notes applicable to us here. This is not to make us paranoid, but only that we be careful and avoid risks, as the virus is spread through almost invisible droplets in the saliva, and it can be carried by air within a short distance, can land and stay for a time on surfaces, etc.

RISK LEVEL 1 & 2 = Low Risk.
(1) Opening the Mail (most likely reading the newspapers as well);
(2) Restaurant take-out; (3) Pumping Station (for gasoline stations workers);
(4) Playing Tennis, (as there is distancing, usually outdoors, and each has his/her racket; same with ping-pong; no card games);
(5) Going Camping (this is not very common here, but the item considers it as a family activity, i.e. persons living in the same house).

RISK LEVEL 3 = Moderate Low Risk.
(6) Grocery Shopping (with face mask, and hand washing);
(7) Going for a Walk, Run or Bike Ride with Others (this is outdoors and distancing is kept);
(8) Playing Golf (this is outdoors and each player has his equipment; but going to the clubhouse is not recommended; it would be a moderately high risk).

RISK LEVEL 4 = Still under Moderate Low Risk, but slightly higher.
(9) Staying at a Hotel for Two Nights (to be avoided unless you know the precautions the hotel has to sanitize the places, etc., avoiding the 'free breakfast' to observe distancing, and using the same utensils, area etc.);
(10) Sitting in a Doctor's Waiting Room (also for the dentist; better to stay in the car or wait outside to be called in; wear protective gear inside, and avoid touching things);
(11) Going to a Library or Museum (avoid unless necessary, because it is an enclosed area, etc.);
(12) Eating in a Restaurant Outside;
(13) Walking in a Busy Downtown;
(14) Spending an Hour in a Playground (if you have to bring little ones, observe protocols as usual);

RISK LEVEL 5 = Moderately Risky.
(15) Eating at Someone else's House (you do not know the people's status with regard to Covid-19, touching areas, using common utensils, distancing is not kept, etc.);
(16) Attending a Backyard Barbecue (or garden party, see no.15);
(17) Going to a Beach (see no. 15);
(18) Shopping at a Mall (see no. 15; but if you really have to, get your work done as quickly as possible; no window-shopping);

RISK LEVEL 6 = Moderately more Risky.
(19) Sending Kids to School, Camp or Day Care (more risky, esp. for the kids; better to keep them at home at this time and plan activities for them);
(20) Working a Week in an Office Building (sanitize hands after touching anything: doorknobs, elevator button, light switch, etc., and wear masks as usual. This can be applied to face-to-face teaching, and similar activities that cannot be done online);
(21) Swimming in a Public Pool (better to avoid as you do not know who had used the facilities, etc.);
(22) Visiting an Elderly Person in his/her Home (better to avoid visiting people altogether; get in touch through social media; stay home, see no.15).

RISK LEVEL 7 = Risk is Moderately High.
(23) Going to Hair Salon or Barber Shop (distancing is not kept);
(24) Eating in a Restaurant Inside (enclosed area, common utensils and facilities);
(25) Attending a Wedding or Funeral (or other church events, as the common area is enclosed, etc. the minister is also to strictly observe the protocols, to keep him from bringing the virus home to infect others there);
(26) Travelling by Plane (bus, boat; and if one really has to travel, strictly observe the protocols, and if you take the air-conditioned tourist section, take more strict precautions; perhaps the economy class is preferable, as there is natural air flowing in; avoid the dining area; bring your own baon, and even beddings if it is an overnight trip);
(27) Playing Basketball (avoid as there is no dstancing and everyone is touching the same ball);
(28) Playing Football (see no. 27);
(29) Hugging or Shaking Hands when Greeting a Friend (devise other ways, like throwing head back; winking might be misunderstood).

RISK LEVEL 8 = High Risk.
(30) Eating at a Buffet (common area, so distancing is not observed; people talking while getting food; touching common utensils: better avoid);
(31) Working Out at a Gym (exercise at home);
(32) Going to an Amusement Park (our equivalent is malling, so see no.18);
(33) Going to a Movie Theatre (avoid, as it is an enclosed area, usually air-conditioned, where you spend 2-3 hours with people you do not know and using facilities you are not sure if disinfected; stay home instead and watch films on TV or Netflix, write or develop your hobbies, like gardening, arts, etc.);

RISK LEVEL 9 = Riskiest of All.
(34) Attending a Large Music Concert (distancing is not possible, and with people cheering, etc.);
(35) Going to Sports Stadium (see n.34, and 27 & 28);
(36) Attending a Religious Service (with more than 500 worshippers, the Texas Medical Association specifies; so the number allowed here is 10 persons in our big churches, with bishops complaining that more are allowed in restaurants and malls than in churches where people get the spiritual energy to stay strong, hopeful and even mentally healthy; but crowded churches with 500 worshippers is certainly a good place for the virus to spread, because of the vocal prayers and singing, the aircon or huge electric fans etc. If we are allowed more worshippers, distancing should be kept, face masks used, disinfect pews, Communion by hand, collections taken not with a basket being passed around, but by one person with a bag at the end of a pole, and he goes from one person to the next. Remember: this is only until the crisis is passed. ); (36) Going to a Bar (as distancing is hard to maintain, with talking, laughing, etc., etc.).

So, what do we do then? Thank God for creation and the blessings we have through it, and continue to pray the Oratio Imperata personally and in community, asking for the intercession of the Blessed Mother through the Rosary, exercise, eat healthy, get some sun, sleep enough, keep your sense of humor and good thoughts. If possible, follow the streamed church services or devotions in many part of the country suggested in the social media to nourish your spirit. This too will pass. Amen.