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Risk assessment shows reason not to gather this Thanksgiving

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — According to the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool, if you attend a gathering of 10 people in Marshall County, there is a 48-percent chance at least one individual at the event will be COVID-19 positive. For a gathering of 50, it increases to a 96 percent chance.

Before rushing out the door to your Thanksgiving feast, scientists and public health warn you may be in store for more than your typical turkey hangover.

An interactive map developed at Georgia Institute of Technology gives a stark visual to the likelihood you will be exposed to a COVID-19 positive person based on the size of a gathering and its location.

According to the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool, if you attend a gathering of 10 people in Marshall County, there is a 48-percent chance at least one individual at the event will be COVID-19 positive. For a gathering of 50, it increases to a 96 percent chance.

The interactive map can be viewed at covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu. Select ‘USA Risk Estimates by County.’ Then adjust the scale on the bottom of the page to the size of gathering you want to view data for.

The site was developed by biologist and Georgia Tech professor Joshua Weitz to halt large gatherings and provide context for reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. It uses census data and The New York Times COVID-19 tracker to compile the data.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO An interactive map developed at Georgia Institute of Technology shows the risk of encountering a COVID-19 positive person by size of the gathering by county anywhere in the United States using census data and the COVID-19 tracker used by The New York Times.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges the best and safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with members of your household. This may include isolating someone who is sick from other members of the household.

If you choose to stay home this Thanksgiving, one option to stay connected with friends in family suggested by the CDC is interacting virtually. This can include showing off your meal through services like Zoom and FaceTime, or playing games.

Marshall County public health director Pat Thompson said we need to be thinking back to how we behaved in the onset of the pandemic last spring.

“If you stay home it’s much appreciated. Staying home too helps us respect the work our health care providers are doing to take care of us and understanding it’s our job to decrease their workload,” she said.

Thompson believes there are many people who will follow public health guidelines for Thanksgiving, even if everybody doesn’t.

“Find your joy. Find you peace with that. Be grateful for what we have,” she said.

Even though cases have heavily increased in the last month, Thompson said she is hopeful that the corner will be turned on the pandemic in coming months when vaccines become available.

“We do have to remember that this is a time of coming together the best that we can,” Thompson said. “I just want people to also have some hope because a vaccine is coming. It won’t be a miracle but please get it. We also need to say all the work that you’re doing to decrease your risk is so much appreciated by public health and health care providers.”

RISK ASSESSMENT PLANNING TOOL

To check the interactive risk assessment planning tool developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, visit covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu. The interactive map shows the risk of encountering a COVID-19 positive person by size of the gathering by county anywhere in the United States.

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Contact Joe Fisher at jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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