Risky Business: What Are the Chances Your Thanksgiving Guests Will Bring COVID?


(ROCHESTER, NY)--As families across the U.S. debate whether or not to hold their usual Thanksgiving gatherings amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, a real-time, interactive mapping tool launched by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology this summer is attracting renewed attention.

According to GIT's COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool estimates, there's currently a 12% chance that a gathering of 10 people in Monroe County will include at least one COVID-19-positive person.

That estimate is based on a baseline "ascertainment bias" of 5, which means the actual number of COVID cases is assumed to be 5 times higher than reported. Researchers say that in counties with low testing capacity or rates, that number could be much higher.

If we assume the maximum ascertainment bias of 10, for example, the risk of a 10 person gathering in Monroe County having at least one COVID-positive person jumps to 24%.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new guidelines limiting all private gatherings in New York State to 10 people. Prior to that announcement, the limit was set at 50.

The GIT mapping tool suggests that decision could lessen exposure risks significantly.

A 50 person gathering in Monroe County would have a roughly 50/50 chance of including at least one COVID-positive person. When you assume the higher ascertainment bias, that risk jumps to 74%.

In the last week, Monroe County has seen a major surge in COVID-19 cases. On Monday, the Monroe County Department of Health reported 315 new cases and a 7-day average positivity rate of 4.67%.

Health officials have urged people not to gather in large numbers for Thanksgiving this year and to observe social distancing and masking guidelines when around people who are not part of your household.

To see the COVID risk estimates for other counties in the U.S., visit the Georgia Institute of Technology mapping tool at: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu


DARIEN LAMEN is news director/producer for Reclaiming the Narrative. He can be reached at wxirnews@gmail.com.