Online tool allows people to calculate COVID-19 risk of attending Thanksgiving

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INDIANAPOLIS — As cases begin to rise across Indiana, a new online tool can help people calculate their COVID-19 risk level ahead of Thanksgiving.

Developed by researchers at Georgia Tech, the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool allows you to figure out what the likelihood is of someone attending your Thanksgiving gathering with COVID-19.

A color-coded map is broken down by county and shows your specific risk level based on the number of people attending.

Dr. Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at Regenstreif Institute, said the tool is especially helpful for those planning to travel out-of-state to a region where they are unfamiliar with the current COVID-19 infection rates.

“Generally, the rates in the Midwest a pretty similar,” said Dr. Dixon. “If you’re planning to head to a different county within Indiana, this tool might not have a whole lot of value to you because this risk is going to be very similar to your own county.”

Still, Dr. Dixon said the online tool can be useful to anyone as a guidance.

“The purpose of the tool is really to get people to think twice, I think, about attending events – particularly large events in certain areas of the county,” Dr. Dixon said.

Assistant Professor at IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, Ana Bento, agreed the tool should be part of someone’s checklist before heading out for holiday plans.

“It doesn’t mean that on a specific day the actual risk will not be a little bit higher or a little bit lower,” said Bento. “The point is to give you general idea of how you should behave and what precautions you should have.”

Bento said although you may be traveling to an area with lower risk, you should prepare for the highest-level risk. She recommends quarantining 14 days prior to your trip, getting tested prior to traveling, and making a set of rules with your family.

“There needs to be an agreement,” Bento said. “A prior agreement that everyone will follow the rules because all it takes is for one person to break the rules and then you know everything is undone.”

Dr. Dixon agreed more things can be done once you arrive to Thanksgiving dinner plans. He said families should consider holding dinner outdoors if weather allows, spacing older populations further from others, and increasing ventilation indoors.

“You want to create some ventilation within that space, so you want to open some windows, or turn on some fans,” said Dr. Dixon.

To use the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool yourself, click here.

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