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Don’t Travel Before Checking Harvard’s COVID-19 Hot Spot Map

Planning a getaway over the holiday weekend? Want to see where the COVID-19 hot spots are in five seconds flat? Harvard Global Health Institute’s brand new risk-assessment map gives a quick overview of where the disease is surging right now.

The tool, which launched today, provides an easy-to-understand COVID-19 risk color-coded rating of green, yellow, orange or red. You can also drill down to the state or county level to see how a specific community is faring.

The assessment levels are based upon the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people. If a community has fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 people, it is colored green, which indicates “on the path to containment.” When there are between one and nine cases, a yellow label means there is some community spread. A community with between 10 and 24 cases per 100,000 people gets an orange designation, meaning that COVID-19 has an “accelerated spread.”

Red signals a community that has 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. That means it is “at a tipping point,” according to HGHI, and people should be under stay-at-home orders.

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Until now, getting a quick snapshot of where the disease hot spots are located has been frustratingly difficult. “The public needs clear and consistent information about COVID risk levels in different jurisdictions for personal decision-making,” said Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. “We also collectively need to keep focused on what should be our main target: a path to near zero case incidence.”

There’s a lot of evidence that Americans who are contemplating trips are playing it by ear. Last week, the AAA released its summer forecast, projecting that Americans will take 700 million trips in July through September. That’s down nearly 15% compared to last year and the first decline in summer travel since the Great Recession in 2009.

One of the key findings from AAA is that the share of travelers making plans 48 hours to 7 days before departure is significantly higher than normal – a sign that people are planning trips at the last minute rather than well in advance.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against traveling to an area where COVID-19 is spreading, which in recent weeks has become much more difficult as the number of new cases has risen by an order of magnitude in states from coast to coast.

Yesterday Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress that the U.S. is “going in the wrong direction.”

Today travel industry leaders urged folks who travel for the July 4th holiday weekend to follow CDC guidelines. “The travel community strongly urges visitors and residents alike to wear masks and adhere to all healthy practices, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and remaining home if sick—no matter where you may be traveling in the country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

“A wealth of information from medical experts points to the value of mask wearing as a key tool in preventing the spread of infection,” said Dow. “Health and safety are paramount to restarting travel and putting Americans back to work, and our industry’s recovery is contingent on businesses and travelers alike doing their part to ensure a healthy and safe travel experience for all along the journey.”


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