COVID-19: Johnson County reports 17 new cases, new online tool estimates risk of infection at public gatherings

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The Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool map of Iowa, July 9, 2020.

Another 17 Johnson County residents tested positive for COVID-19 between 10 a.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Thursday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Those new cases bring the county’s total number of residents who have tested positive to 1,369 and extend the number of consecutive days it has seen double-digit increases in new cases to 23.

Statewide, IDPH reported 669 more Iowans had tested positive for the virus in the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. Thursday. Those new cases include 23 residents of Linn County. The cases reported on Thursday morning increase the state’s total to 33,012 and Linn County’s total to 1,333.

IDPH considers anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be recovered after 28 days, unless the department is informed otherwise. According to the department, 26,232 Iowans have now recovered from COVID-19, including 854 residents of Johnson County and 1,110 residents of Linn County.

The department also reported on Thursday another seven people had died from the virus, bringing the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 739.

The statewide positivity rate — the percentage of people being tested who were confirmed as having COVID-19 — for the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. on Wednesday was 8.8 percent. In Linn County, the positivity rate was 6.0 percent. Johnson County had a positivity rate of 6.1 percent.

This week researchers at Georgia Tech University launched an interactive online dashboard that provides county-level estimates on the risk of COVID-19 exposure people face when attending events.

“The issue of understanding risks associated with gatherings is even more relevant as many kinds of businesses, including sports and universities, are considering how to re-open safely,” Joshua Weitz, a professor in Georgia Tech School of Biological Sciences and one of the online tool’s designers, said in a statement from Georgia Tech’s College of Sciences.

The dashboard is updated daily, drawing its COVID-19 data from the COVID-19 Tracking Project and the New York Times case count and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool takes the number of cases reported in the past 14 days in each county, and multiplies these by an under-testing factor to estimate the number of circulating cases in a particular county,” Weitz explained.

On Thursday morning, the sites provided the following estimates for the chance of being exposed to COVID-19 at gatherings in Johnson and Linn counties.

Event size is 10 people

Johnson: 30 percent risk level
Linn: 8 percent risk level

Event size is 25

Johnson: 59 percent risk
Linn: 20 percent risk

Event size is 50

Johnson: 83 percent risk
Linn: 35 percent risk

Event size is 100

Johnson: 97 percent risk
Linn: 58 percent risk

Even the best result for Johnson County — a 30 percent risk of exposure at gatherings of 10 people — is still bad compared to the rest of the state. According to the site’s estimates, only Pocahontas County had a risk percentage higher than 30 for events that size, and just one other county, Wright, had a 30 percent risk.

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