Harvard’s New Map of COVID-19 Hotspots Informs US Travelers

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Congress yesterday that America is “going in the wrong direction”, referring to the rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases being observed around the country.

Nevertheless, with summertime now in full swing, many Americans are eager to set off on domestic trips after long months of being confined to their home amid the U.S.’ recent economic and social lockdowns. And, with communities and businesses progressively reopening, it’s finally possible to take an impromptu road trip, or embark on a journey to see friends and family.

Citing AAA’s Summer Travel Forecast findings, Forbes reported that U.S. travelers seem to be loosely planning their getaways and then largely playing things by ear, given the ever-changing landscape.

With uncertainty being the order of the day, the question now for travelers now becomes how to determine whether their destination is relatively safe or risky in the current climate, and in light of the sudden swells and rapid fluctuations in COVID-19 infections being reported across the nation?

Information For Travelers:

To cut through the noise, misinformation and often conflicting advice, Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and a network of research, policy, and public health experts joined forces to create a new COVID Risk Level map. Just launched today, this interactive online tool enables users to easily see the levels of community spread in different areas of the U.S., down to the state or county level.

“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”, explains Danielle Allen, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

Regions fall into one of four color-coded risk-level categories—Green, Yellow, Orange or Red—based upon the number of daily new COVID-19 cases reported. These designations are intended, not only to alert potential visitors to the risk level of a certain area, but also to help these jurisdictions themselves by offering guidance on COVID suppression measures in line with their level of community spread.

Guidance For Locals:

The new framework provides key performance indicators for viral testing, and contracting-tracing as a basis for infection suppression effects, as well as options as to which further steps local public officials ought to take, based upon the severity of each community’s outbreak.

“Local leaders need and deserve a unified approach for suppressing COVID-19, with common metrics so that they can begin to anticipate and get ahead of the virus, rather than reacting to uncontrolled community spread”, says Beth Cameron, Vice President for Global Biological Policy and Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and a member of the COVID-Local.org team.

“Unless and until there is a whole of government response, with measurable progress communicated similarly and regularly across every state and locality, U.S. leaders will be left to react to the chaos of the virus – rather than being able to more effectively target interventions to suppress it,” she explained.

Ashish K. Jha, Director at the Harvard Global Health Institute, said: “Robust TTSI [testing, tracing and supported isolation] programs are key on the pathway to suppression. We need to consistently apply data-driven testing of hotspots, combined with contact tracing-based testing, especially in states where case numbers are rising rapidly,” says “It is what we need to get the virus level so low that we don’t have large numbers of people getting sick and dying and that we can open up our economy.”

For more information, visit globalepidemics.org.

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