Guest Columnist

How to assess the risk of your family's Thanksgiving plans

Doctor: We will sit out this holiday, so we can have everyone present for the next one

Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.
Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.

Data scientists at Georgia Tech have developed a tool to allow people like you and me to assess how risky our holiday plans may be, using the number of COVID-19 cases over the past 10 days in each county.

I’ll use my family’s typical Thanksgiving plans as an example.

Absent COVID, we would all meet at my in-laws’ home in Lucas County. In attendance would be a family of five from Omaha (Douglas County, Neb.) a family of six from Warren County, and families of two and five from Lucas County. Total of 18 people.

The risk assessment tool allows only certain event sizes, so I will round down to 15 people. If we were all from Douglas County, the percent chance at least one person at the table had active COVID would be 72 percent. If we were all from Warren County, 76 percent; all from Lucas County, 54 percent.

If we all gathered around the table there is a 54 to 76 percent chance that one of us has active COVID-19.

Now, this must be put into the context of risk factors of those sitting around the table. Factors associated with severe disease include diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, COPD, smoking, asthma, high blood pressure and cancer.

Over 50 percent of adult Americans have one or more of these risk factors. My family is similar, with at least half of us having one or more of these conditions.

There would be a 54 to 76 percent chance someone brings COVID-19 to a table, where over half of us are high risk. That is too risky for me.

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My family will not be visiting for Thanksgiving. We will sit out this holiday, so we can have everyone present for the next one.

Dustin Krutsinger of Omaha is a medical doctor with an advanced degree in epidemiology. He is a native of Chariton and former resident of Coralville. You can assess your family’s risk here: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu

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