Should I Risk Getting COVID?

You're mortal. This is an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact. Use this tiny model to find out if you should get the big bad virus.
This is not medical advice. This is a joke.


Though you cannot alter the fact that you will die, you retain some agency over how. At a minimum, your decisions impact the probabilities of certain causes of death. Make a habit of speeding through rush hour traffic, and the odds of one cause of death rises (and others actually fall…you're less likely to die of cancer!).

But fiery balls of mangled steel are ubiquitous and uninteresting unless it's a Hollywood chase scene or you're late for work.

Let's talk about COVID. Is it worth locking yourself down in perpetuity, or should you be gallivanting in smoke-filled bars and cavorting in mosh pits? And if caution is advisable, for how long should you eschew your previous bacchanalian lifestyle?

How many more “good” years do you want to live?
50 years


How many quality-adjusted life years do you expect for the rest-of-your-life? If you're an able-bodied twenty-something lacking addictions to sex, drugs, or rock-and-roll, you might need a night out, but this value is probably 60+. If you're an octogenarian with a penchant for base-jumping and a terminal diagnosis, the number is smaller. Capisce?

(We’ll call this y)

What's the chance you think you'd die if you got COVID?


What is your infection-fatality-rate in your own estimation? If you're morbidly obsese, diabetic, unvaccinated, and live 100 miles from the nearest hospital, this number should be higher than if you're young, vaccinated, exercise religiously, and have strong opinions on lululemon and kale-infused smoothies. (And if you're really scared about long-COVID, make this number a little higher to compensate).

Given that there are 330 million folks in the USA, ~1M have died due to COVID, and most of them were unvaccinated and/or dealing with significant co-morbidities, the infection fatality rate for most people should be well below 1%.

Yes, I know ‘long COVID’ is a thing… I’m not dealin’ with it. Make the number a little higher if you must.

(We’ll call this f)

If you threw caution to the wind, what's the chance you think you'd get COVID?


How likely do you think you are to contract COVID if you take no precautions? Whatever you did before, you keep doing it. No holes barred. No bars to withhold. As many mosh pits as you enjoyed circa 2019.

(We’ll call this p)

How disappointing is a “cautious” lifestyle for you?


Are you a lover of Zoom meetings, Netflix, and Amazon Prime deliveries? Or are you the type of extrovert who chases in-person connections like a starving lion on the serengeti chasing that errant gazelle? More specifically, what proportion of your baseline quality-adjusted-life-year are you forgoing? If you really loved Tiger King and getting Chinese food delivered, then this might be more like 0.05. If you’re a social butterfly who felt like you were living in the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, then this value is closer to 1.

(We’ll call this δ)

How much of your risk do you think you could avoid by being “cautious?”


How much of your risk (1-100%) do you think you could avoid by being “cautious?” Are you planning to reside in the remote wilderness with drones air-dropping packages at your doorstep, at which point you will scrub them down with extra-strength disinfecting wipes (procured from a previous airdrop, disinfected by a previous supply of wipes, and so on back to the big bang)? Or are you residing in an urban high-rise with mosh-pit owner-operators, and cramped stairways leading to your own must-be-in-person job?

(We’ll call this β)


Remaining quality-adjusted life years
y: 50 years

Likelyhood of death if you contracted COVID
f: 5%

The chance you think you’d get COVID if you weren’t cautious
p: 30%

Dissatisfaction in a cautious lifestyle
δ: 50%

Risk you think you could avoid by being “cautious”
β: 40%