Acceptable Risk

In The Age Of Covid-19 

 10 min read

By Bill Petros



COVID-19 And The Risks We Take!

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Acceptable Risk Article



Due to fact that the covid-19 outbreak is in full swing, we have seen some human behaviors that we do not usually see or are unexpected, at the least. In addition, due to the stress of the pandemic, we have all had our limits tested in what we are willing to do, what chances we are willing to take, and so on.


Some individuals choose to stay home and avoid human contact by any means necessary, while others don't give it a second thought and will have contact with anyone and anything.

They act as they do not have a care in the world. Still, I have seen others that say, "if it's meant to be, it's meant to be," "it's up to God, if I catch Covid-19 or if I get sick, I'm not worried about it."


In my personal opinion, this is a very careless approach to take. Due to this observation, we decided to do some investigating on the human rationale and decision making.

So here is the story...

We all take risks, with our careers, with our money; just about everything in life is not without risk. Most individuals make common-sense decisions when it comes to risk. What is most interesting is our rationale, the psychology behind our decisions on what risk is acceptable and what risks are not.


Almost every single parent is asked, "is being around your children an acceptable risk"? Answered (YES) a few of the older parents 60+ were more hesitant to be around, IE hug or kiss their children on the cheek or forehead, maybe due to the 60+ generation is at high risk, or their children had high-risk jobs making it more dangerous to be in close proximity to their children, or maybe for just personal or other reasons.



Acceptable Risk?


So, what is an acceptable risk?

According to the encyclopedia, the definition of the term "acceptable risk" or risks only really describes An individual's likelihood of an event whose probability or chance of deciding to choose the risk, the occurrence is small.

This is because the consequences are so tiny, or whose benefits are perceived or actual are worth the opportunity or are so great.

Therefore, most individuals are willing to accept or are ready to accept the consequences of the decision and take the risk because the event may occur.

Concepts of acceptable risk evolve partly from realizing that there is NO absolute safety, which is not generally unachievable. Even low levels of decisions carry some level of risk. Thus, the notion of virtual safety does not genuinely exist and corresponds to an acceptable level of risk that emerged as risk management.

In cases where such risks could not be entirely or cost-effectively taken, they are eliminated from our minds.



Calculated Risk

Calculated risks are taken every day on a subconscious level. We don't even realize it; just getting out of bed is a calculated risk. Taking your morning shower, the subconscious is constantly assessing risk on a moment-by-moment basis. Your brain calculates the risk of crossing the street at that moment should I walk now or wait. Almost everything has risks. So now that we understand the concepts, let try to understand why we make the choices we do when it comes to risk factors.


Understanding our choices

Why do some individuals run across the street seemingly carelessly while others will stand patiently waiting for the light to turn green before crossing the road? Just what is going on in the mind of those individuals?

Unsafe behavior or flawed risk assessment is a fraudulent behavior of the subconscious. The motivation is a demand whereby the individual maximizes the process of walking by violating As is depicted in Wilde's Risk Homeostasis Theory, individual' risk levels when crossing streets can be divided into the degree of risk, the acceptable risk degree, the perceived degree of risk, and the actual degree of risk. Individuals rely on their self-control behaviors to keep a balance between these risk factors. The understanding of traffic information causes the difference between the perceived risk degree and the actual risk degree.

Acceptable Risk Crossing The Street


Image: an individual with low-risk balancing (waits for no traffic)


In most cases, the perceived risk is within an acceptable degree, namely, with most crossing the road only under an adequate risk factor. If one's perceived risk level reaches or gets close to a degree of alert, alertness will improve at that very moment, and the perceived degree of risk is most significant. On the contrary, if the awareness of the individual's information is good, their alertness drops, and their acceptable risk degree rises.

At any moment, your perceived degree of risk and estimating what unsafe behavior would cause to happen in different scenarios to decide whether to change their behavior or not. Of course, this is determined by your sense of judgment and decision-making; your degree of the risk assessment will fluctuate according to your behavioral variation.

Acceptable Risk Crossing The Street In Unsafe Way

Figure 2: Unsafe calculated risk making.


The individuals crossing the street decide subconsciously; it is a self-controlled factor. When individuals conflict with the decision process of crossing the road, they may choose to pass through the spaces or gaps between vehicles. Before crossing, they firstly judge the street's risk degree psychologically. The primary basis of their judgment includes comfort, safety, convenience, and reliability. Next, pedestrians choose their acceptable risk degree when crossing the street. If the risk is beyond their tolerance range, they will decide to wait.


 Covid-19 Risk Factors


The risk of Covid-19 is all around us. The air we breathe at any given time could contain Covid Virus. The remarkably light and small molecule (size range of particles are 125 nanometers about (0.125 microns); 0.06 microns to .14 microns in diameter (about. The N95 mask filters down to about 0.3 microns in size, so theoretically, an N95 mask will not filter most viruses due to the limitations of the masks themselves. And just for size reference, 1 micron is 1/1,000th of a millimeter, and the Covid-19 virus is about (0.1 microns in size.

However, luckily for us, the airborne particles of the virus do not float by themselves in the air (no such thing as a floating naked virus, they always piggyback on other particles, particles that will not pass through the N95 range of 0.3 microns.

N95 mask still traps particles even more diminutive than .03 microns due to the fact that virus particles and their piggyback accomplice never travel in straight lines, so the chance they will perfectly slip through the micron gap of the mask is reduced, and further, the N95 mask also utilizes static absorption to help trap virus particles.



Observed Behavior

I have seen individuals refuse to be around family members, even those that are homemakers. Still, it was acceptable to go to Costco every week for their shopping needs, with 500 other shoppers in the store. I find this illogical at best.

Personally, one exposure to Costco or Walmart for an hour of shopping is like, 500 exposure to a family member who is a stay-at-home mom. But I guess since that person is willing to expose themselves to a significant warehouse store, the extra visit from a family member is over their acceptable risk threshold?

I believe it is better to limit my store visits and visit my family a little more often!

It is this behavior that inspired me to do the research and write this article. The notion that one individual's logic can differ so much from others. I believe this to be true in many aspects of human reasoning, but when it comes to risk, the variable of tolerance is astounding, the limits that one individual has, compared to others.

I have always leaned towards the cautious and conservative side of risk-taking and generally try to out way the risk factor with the immediate urgency of the decision (how much risk I'm willing to chase versus how urgent the action needs to be completed. So, for example, if one runs late for work, are they more likely to speed in their vehicle or more likely to J-walk across the street?


Opinion matters?

Does Opinion matter? Not really.

My conclusion:

We are all biased in some way / form or another; We and judge risk factors differently; the professional cliff diver would most likely think nothing of some risks that other individuals would never take. 

Risk is relevant to the individual and, therefore, cannot be calculated by anyone individuals for the whole. Yes, we have laws that say J-walking is unsafe for the person doing so and for the cars that have to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting you, so they (the city lawmakers) make a risk factor assessment and say, NO, we cannot do that without getting a ticket. 

However, we do allow ordnance and lawmakers to calculate the risk factors of the whole and set rules as to the dos and don'ts. We accept this as citizens of the city or state we reside in, just like the lockdown that came with the wave of infected Covid-19 infections. The city and state officials made risk assessments and set rules and laws according to their evaluation of the risk for the safety of the whole.

We all saw some individuals refusing to wear masks or follow the city and state guidelines. Even though it might have seemed reckless to many, their risk assessment led them to calculate theirs differently due to personal bias.

Remember, there is no right and wrong answers or opinion on this matter, only compliance with the law or not. And one's own willingness to weigh acceptable risk in their eyes.