As uncertainty surrounding how to spend the holidays amid COVID-19 wears on, researchers at Georgia Tech have built an application to help travelers predict the risk of coronavirus in every county.
The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool is the brainchild of Joshua Weitz, a quantitative biologist at Georgia Tech, who wanted a tool to quantify the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in different parts of the country and different sized groups.
Users can input the event size and can use the map to search risk by county.
The calculated risk level is the estimated chance “that at least 1 COVID-19 positive individual will be present at an event in a county, given the size of the event,” according to the tool.
For example, at the moment, if you’re attending a wedding of about 50 people in Palm Beach, Florida, there’s a 45 percent chance of being exposed COVID-19, according to the tool. While the chances of contracting COVID-19 at a small gathering in New York are quite slim, the percentages can soar to almost certainty. If you were to attend a wedding of about 50 in Cavalier County, North Dakota, there is a chance of more than 99 percent that someone at the party would be infected.
The tool uses current data provided by counties to calculate the risk. So it can determine the risk of attending a party in Nevada this week, but it can’t necessarily predict the risk of a gathering in Virginia next week.
“In a way it’s like a weather map,” Clio Andris, a professor at Georgia Tech who helped Weitz build out the tool, told the Los Angeles Times. “It can tell you what the risk is that it will rain, but it can’t tell you if you’ll get wet. That depends on if you carry an umbrella, or if you choose not to go outside at all.”
In this metaphor, the umbrella stands in for COVID-19 protections, like a face mask, hand sanitizer, and maintain social distance. The tool also does not take individual behaviors into account, so you cannot predict how exposure chances differ if you’re hanging out with party animals versus lone wolves.
If you do plan to travel, check out the CDC and TSA guidelines for safe Thanksgiving travel during a pandemic.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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