- A new interactive map may help travelers decide whether leaving home is worth the risk.
- The study authors say they were motivated by “superspreading” of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that was documented at indoor events or large gatherings where a single person was associated with transmitting the virus to many other people.
- Experts say disease risk is pervasive, and the most effective ways to avoid infection are still physical or social distancing and mask use.
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The ongoing pandemic has severely affected holiday travel plans for the majority of people in the United States.
However, a recent survey by Travelocity finds that almost half of people in the United States still plan to spend time away from home in the coming weeks.
Even with new COVID-19 cases breaking records, about 40 percent of Americans say they will be at a large gathering during the holidays.
Without more people taking precautions, this could worsen the pandemic as more people are exposed to the coronavirus.
A new interactive map developed by Joshua Weitz, PhD, professor at Georgia Tech University, and other researchers could help travelers decide whether leaving home is worth the risk.
According to an
The study authors say they were motivated by “superspreading” of the new coronavirus that was documented at indoor events or large gatherings where a single person with an infection was associated with transmitting the virus to many other people.
“By integrating real-time information aggregated via state health departments nationwide along with a simple statistical model,” wrote the researchers, “the website is able to capture, calculate and disseminate information relevant to decision-making by the public that could help reduce risk and new transmission.”
Acknowledging the difficulty in tracking all cases, the tool calculates risk assuming the actual number of COVID-19 cases is up to 10 times higher than official reports indicate.
“Cases may be under-reported due to testing shortages, asymptomatic ‘silent spreaders,’ and reporting lags,” according to information on the interactive website.
The map helps you determine the odds you’ll be exposed to at least one person who has a coronavirus infection at a holiday get-together or large event, like New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square.
“In a way, it’s like a weather map,” Clio Andris, PhD, a Georgia Tech professor who helped create 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.”
“Models and tools like this can provide perspective, but they are limited in how accurate they can be, and they often cannot account for every variable,” Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease attending physician at Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, told Healthline.
Infection rates are updated daily to provide users a way to “visualize” risks associated with planned gatherings, and include county maps and state-level plots.
This provides “data-driven information to help individuals and policy makers make prudent decisions,” according to researchers.
“At this point in the pandemic, risk exists just about everywhere in the U.S.,” Hirschwerk said.
Hirschwerk pointed out that infection risk is pervasive and not something that should be determined by degree.
He said that while the risk may be a “bit less in certain areas and the tool will show that,” it remains true that for large groups, especially indoors, a lack of physical distancing and mask use will “undoubtedly lead to infection spread.”
“There really needs to be the acknowledgment that traveling to a ‘hot spot’ at this point is associated with risk, without any question,” Hirschwerk said.
He also said that “wearing masks, avoiding indoor events, especially with crowds, and maintaining 6 feet of distance between others remains the most important factors to be mindful of.”
A new interactive map created by researchers at Georgia Tech University offers people information about COVID-19 risk in different parts of the United States.
This information is meant to help people who plan to travel decide whether it’s worth the risk to do so, and what precautions they should take if they do travel.
Experts say the provided information is still limited and disease risk is pervasive. They add that the most effective ways to avoid infection are still physical distancing and mask use.