If you’re still planning to go to some kind of in-person Thanksgiving event, otherwise known as a COVID feast, I’m not going to judge you. I will, however, do whatever I can to convince you that you’re making the wrong decision, and that includes sending you off to the handy “COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool” map so you get a fuller picture of your odds.
Said map doesn’t have the sexiest of names, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that you can use to get a sense of how safe it is to hang out in groups of more than just you and housemates. And this isn’t just some kind of pie-in-the-sky, “you might not want to” recommendation. The site looks at your county’s official COVID infection data, usually updated as of the day prior, and uses that to feed its overall evaluation: the likelihood that at least one person at your event will be carrying COVID.
So, for example, if i pull up my county of Santa Clara, California, I can immediately see the current risk level—as evaluated by the site—for a typical gathering of 50 people. All I have to do is find my county on the map and hover my mouse:
I can then use a slider on the left-hand side of the site to indicate how many people are attending an upcoming event. So, for the sake of example, let’s say I’m thinking about going to a 10-person Thanksgiving. Here’s how that risk level changes:
Not bad. That’s a seven-out-of-one-hundred chance that at least one person at Thanksgiving will have COVID. I still won’t go to dinner, but it’s nice to know. And if I lived somewhere where COVID is hitting a lot harder, like North Dakota, I would barricade myself in my house:
One quirk of the site is that it assumes that there are around five times or so more COVID cases than what’s actually being reported out there. That tracks against worldwide modeling studies, so don’t let your relatives pull the “fake news” card when you show them that this site says you will die if you go to Thanksgiving. (I’m being hyperbolic, but not that much.)
If you have reports that your county is potentially underreporting COVID cases even more, you can flick a little switch on the site that adjusts this “Ascertainment Bias” from a 5:1 ratio to 10:1. So, yes, you’re in control of the data a bit, which makes the site only as useful as your settings. However, it’s still a great way to get a quick check-in about how safe it might be to have a quick friend hangout (don’t do it) versus, say, attending some kind of in-person sporting event (please, please don’t do it).