(NEXSTAR) – As many Americans prepare to gather with friends and family for the holidays, COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cases and hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks, largely due to the omicron variant, which now makes up more than 70% of new U.S. cases.
With COVID numbers on the rise, you may be wondering – how safe is your holiday gathering?
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The CDC reports all but two states – Montana and South Carolina – have high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. Dr. Dan Shirley, an infectious disease physician with UW Health, tells Nexstar’s WFRV that while people are expected to gather for the holidays, they should take certain precautions. This includes avoiding large gatherings (and wearing a mask if you can’t avoid them) and asking yourself questions before getting together with family and friends.
“Is this a group of people that I know something about their immunity and vaccination status? Is it a situation where people can space out? Is the airflow good?”
The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool by the Georgia Institute of Technology may also offer you some insight into the risks of gathering with groups this holiday season. The interactive map assesses the risk that one or more individuals with COVID is present in an event of various sizes, which can be adjusted with a slider. Using COVID, population, and vaccination data, the map displays the COVID risk by county.
For gatherings of 15 people, states in the Midwest and New England carry the greatest chance (25-50%) of at least one person having COVID-19. Some counties, like Tompkins, New York, and Pike, Illinois, have risk levels over 65%. Below is the risk assessment map of the continental U.S. for gatherings of 15 as of Tuesday, Dec. 21.
For gatherings of 20, risk levels rise in not only the Midwest and New England but in western states like Arizona and New Mexico. Four counties – Tompkins; Pike; De Baca, New Mexico; and Kent, Texas – have risk levels above 75%.
If you are attending a gathering of 50 people, the chances of at least one person having COVID-19 rises substantially in many counties. On the interactive map, many counties become red, meaning the risk level is 75% or higher. With gatherings of 100, some states turn completely red. Even with events of just 10 people, the smallest group size the tool measures, every state has at least one county with a risk level between 1% and 25%.
In a Monday update, the CDC reported the U.S. has seen over 929,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported. This comes just days after the country surpassed 50 million total cases and 800,000 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.