The Harvard Global Health Institute has come up with a map that can guide people in determining the COVID-19 risks in counties.
The Harvard Global Health Institute has a color-coded map where the risk in counties can be seen. As for coding, the red marks represent more than 25 cases per day per 100,000 people while the orange, yellow and green coded areas represent less than one case per day per 100,000 people. Aside from these, some colors represent contact tracing, rigorous testing and stay at home orders to help guide locals.
“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,” Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said in a statement. “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.”
According to Tom Tsai, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who helped create the dashboard, this tool was designed both for the general public and for policymakers. “The most effective public health policy occurs when the public and the policymakers are on the same page,” he says.
In addition to the four color zones, it offers specific policy interventions for each zone. In the red, stay-at-home orders are necessary; in the green, testing and contact tracing are recommended.
The dashboard is the work of more than a dozen researchers from eight organizations, including Harvard’s Edmond J. Sacra Center for Ethics, CovidActNow, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Tsai says it was important to have a breadth of experiences represented, but also to have a clear, unified approach. “Science by definition is messy,” Tsai says. “There can be a diversity of opinion even among scientists. But what we could agree on is that we need a common language to help guide policymakers.”
The researchers have also chosen to represent this information using a visual language—colors—that people will instinctively understand. “There are amber alerts for all kinds of risks, from terrorism to air pollution,” Tsai says.
“For COVID, what was lacking was a clear communication around the prevalence of the disease in a particular area.” My colleague Mark Wilson recently pointed out that using colors, rather than text and figures, allows people to process information more easily and can make it easier to remember the information as well.