Tool Helps Assess COVID-19 Risk at Gatherings Based on Size, County

Is it safe to travel for the holidays? A COVID-19 risk assessment map can help you make that decision

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Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging Americans to stay home and not travel to see their loved ones or host large gatherings during Thanksgiving, there are many people that are taking those risks.

Built by researchers at Georgia Tech, the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Planning Tool is designed to help people easily understand the risks associated with gatherings of different sizes in different locations.

Your Chances of Encountering the Coronavirus at an Event or Gathering

This map, based on a model by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, uses real-time data to show the risk of attending an event given its size and location. The risk level refers to the probability of encountering at least one COVID-19 positive individual, and the model assumes there are at least five times more cases than are being reported.

Source: COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool
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The tool works in real-time and is updated every four hours. On Monday afternoon in San Diego County, if you were to attend a gathering of 25 people, the tool says you would have a 27% chance risk of running into someone with COVID 19. Compare that with the risk level in El Paso, where the risk level is 86%.

Clio Andres, a professor of city and regional planning and interactive computing at Georgia Tech, helped build out the tool.

"There's a real risk with gathering with people right now and that risk is quantified with this tool," she said.

To find out how likely you are to encounter a coronavirus-positive person at a gathering, you simply open the tool, move the slider to the number of people you expect to attend, then move your cursor over the county where the gathering will take place. The tool will tell you the likelihood someone will bring the virus to your gathering on that day. What it can’t tell you is whether that percentage is worth the risk. You'll have to make that call yourself.

Andres said it's a lot like a weather map.

"You can read it a little bit like it's a 50% chance of rain. We're not necessarily telling you whether you're going to get wet or not. Hopefully, you'll use precautions like an umbrella, or staying indoors and being safe, but it does tell you the likelihood that it is nearby," she said.

It's not just individuals that are utilizing the resource. Organizations like the Special Olympics are using it to assess the risk of holding events.

"This tool is not meant to necessarily give people the green light to do things. It's meant as an educational tool to help people understand the risk," Andres said.

The online tool went live in July and is averaging 20,000 visitors a day.

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