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Harvard’s New Online Tool Shows Just How Serious COVID-19 Is Where You Live

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsJuly 1, 2020

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COVID-19 cases are surging across the United States. On Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned lawmakers that cases could spike to 100,000 per day nationwideOne of the foremost ways to protect yourself from contracting the virus is knowing how pervasive cases have become in your own zip code—and that’s why Harvard’s free tool logs COVID-19 cases by state (and even county).

Harvard’s COVID Risk Levels dashboard launched on June 30, and lets you plug in your zip code or county-state combination to assess if your local risk of contracting COVID-19 is green, yellow, orange, or (worst of all) red. Harvard calculates what hue should be assigned to your district by the number of new daily COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people.

If your state is in the red (like Arizona and Florida), there are 25 or more cases per 100,000. For orange, there are 10 to 24. “When you get into that orange and red zone it means, in all likelihood, you’re seeing a lot of velocities, a kind of fast upward trend,” Danielle Allen, PhD, a professor at Harvard told WBUR. For yellow, there are between one and nine. And finally, states that are green (like Hawaii) have no more than one new case per day. Where I currently am in Dane County, Wisconsin, for example, we’re in the yellow zone.

“[We] collectively need to keep focused on what should be our main target: a path to near-zero case incidence.” —Danielle Allen, PhD

The need for such a tool couldn’t be clearer. “The public needs clear and consistent information about COVID risk levels in different jurisdictions for personal decision-making, and policy-makers need clear and consistent visibility that permits differentiating policy across jurisdictions,” said Dr. Allen in a statement. “We also collectively need to keep focused on what should be our main target: a path to near-zero case incidence.”

Aside from allowing you to check how at-risk you are when you’re saying, going to the grocery store or deciding whether indoor dining or going back to the gym is the right choice for you, the tool will also help you think about what risks you’re willing to take to travel. Will visiting your parents put you at a higher chance of bringing COVID-10 back to your own town? Is it really worth it? These are some of the questions Harvard’s new tool can help you answer.

“Uncertainty is the currency of pandemics,” reads a press release from Harvard. Take it as a small win that you don’t have to feel uncertain about how many active cases of COVID-19 there are in your neighborhood.

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