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Sep 23, 2020
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With Covid-19 cases rising in 27 states, the risk-assessment map from the Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown School of Public Health illustrates just how challenging it is to stay safe on any cross-country road trip right now.

New Covid-19 cases are up over 15% just in the past week, according to an internal FEMA memo obtained by ABC News. The Midwest has become the epicenter of the latest outbreak, with Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Iowa deemed to be at a “tipping point” by the public health experts at Harvard and Brown universities.

If you’re planning a late summer or early fall road trip — or embarking any kind of long-distance travel — the Harvard-Brown risk assessment tool provides an easy-to-understand Covid-19 risk color-coded rating of green, yellow, orange or red. You can view current data at the state or country level to see how a specific community is faring.

Risk levels are based upon the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people based on a rolling seven-day average. The color-coding provides a stark visual look at how the country is going in the wrong direction.

First, consider how little green there is on the map. Green indicates that a community has fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 people, which indicates “on the path to containment.” On the state level, only Vermont is in the green zone.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the entire middle of the country is awash in red. Each of those counties is a community with 25 or more new daily cases per 100,000 people, signifying “a tipping point,” according to the scientists. When a community is in the red zone, people should be under stay-at-home orders, according to the Harvard-Brown tool.

In Wisconsin, for example, over 80% of all counties in the state have moderate or high levels of community transmission, according to the FEMA memo. The Badger State has an overall average of 45.7 new daily Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, which is an alarming 83% higher than the red-zone threshold.

After peaking in late July, new Covid-19 cases had been in decline for weeks. But the country has seen a significant increase following Labor Day weekend.

Over the long holiday weekend, travel was up 10% compared to last year as Americans mainly drove to their destinations of choice and crowds flocked to beaches and bars across the country.

Leading up to Labor Day weekend, health experts had expressed concern that a bump in travel would spur a spike in coronavirus cases, just as it had after Memorial Day and Independence Day weekend celebrations.

The U.S. has just crossed a grim milestone, with over 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. A well-regarded model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is currently projecting that the U.S. will hit 378,000 Covid-19 deaths by January 1, 2021. The model predicts that the death rate will rise throughout the fall until it peaks in late December at about 3,600 per day.

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