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New online COVID-19 risk assessment tool compares cases by county

Harvard Global Health Institute helps launch coronavirus color-coding tool

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — If you're planning to travel to a neighboring county for the holiday weekend, you might want to check a new online coronavirus risk tool before you pack your bags.

Health researchers created a new online COVID-19 assessment tool allowing viewers to compare case number by county. Health professionals are calling it a much needed comparison. 

“You can take an urban area or a large city area and compare it to a smaller more rural area,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld of Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Threlkeld says the new assessment tool by Harvard's Global Health Institute could be helpful. Once you visit  the website at globalepidemics.org, you’ll see a myriad of colors which represent the risk level per county. To determine yours, select a state then a county. The map next shows the number of daily new cases.

“They look at the sort of slope of the curve over the last week or so and they’re showing the rate of new cases,” said Threlkeld. 

The risk level is based on the number of new cases per 100,000 people. 

“There’s been some difficulty identifying how some people are doing compared to one another because different states do it differently," commented Threlkeld. "Different counties within states do it differently.”

Shelby County is currently orange compared to Crittenden County, Arkansas, and DeSoto County, Mississippi, which are in the red.

Green means a county is on track for containment, yellow shows there is community spread. Orange indicates an accelerated spread and red equals a tipping point, where stay at home orders are necessary.

“I suppose it could allow people who are in the yellow and red areas to be more careful," said Threlkeld. "To maybe enacting some more stringent requirements for social distancing.”

Dr. Threlkeld added that the tool could be used for counties to take note of what methods are working for well-performing areas or learn from what counties are doing poorly.

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