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This online coronavirus tool could save your family’s Thanksgiving plans

Published Nov 12th, 2020 5:39PM EST
  • COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool from Georgia Tech can tell you how likely you are to be exposed to the coronavirus at an event in any county in America.
  • The interactive map is constantly being updated with the latest data, and you can adjust the number of people that will be at your event to see how risky it will be.
  • This COVID-19 tool isn’t definitive, but it could help you plan a safe Thanksgiving gathering.

Unless something changes drastically in the coming days, the US is going to continue to watch its record-breaking infection rate spike throughout the winter. There is no national strategy, many states have given up on the mask and social distance mandates, and as a result, our country is seeing the worst COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic, with hospitals in many states full to bursting. At this point, all that you can do is try to keep yourself and your family safe, and the good news is that there are a number of ways to do that, including a new online tool.

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As noted by the LA Times, a group of researchers at Georgia Tech have put together an interactive COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool that is intended to help everyone from government officials to private individuals see how likely they are to catch the virus throughout the country on a granular level.

In order to use the site, make sure you’re on the first tab (“USA risk estimates by county”) and then use the slider on the left side of the page to estimate how many people will be at the event you are planning to attend. For example, if you’re going home to Dallas, Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving later this month, there’s a 60% chance you’ll encounter someone infected with the novel coronavirus at an event with 50 people present. If you drop the number of guests to 25, your chances of coming into contact with an infected individual drop to 36%.

“In a way it’s like a weather map,” Clio Andris, a professor at Georgia Tech who helped build the interactive tool, told the LA 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.”

The tool went live on Georgia Tech’s website in July, but was recently peer-reviewed in Nature, giving it even more credibility than it already had. As useful as the tool can be, it assumes that cases are actually ten times higher than is being reported out of the region you look at, as only a fraction of the infected community is actually being tested. The tool also doesn’t take into account how diligent people at these events are being, as Andris says above, which means the risk factor drops if everyone is wearing masks and social distancing. Obviously, the level of risk also fluctuates significantly based on whether or not the event in question is being held indoors.

With all of that in mind, this tool certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to making decisions to could affect your health and the health of those around you, but the map is updated every single day, and unless you plan to stay home until a vaccine is ready, this tool could help keep you safe when you do go outside.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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