89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Online Tool Gauges How Risky It Is To Visit Local Bar Or Restaurant During Pandemic

A newly peer-reviewed tool assesses the likelihood that someone at an event will be carrying the novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool website
A newly peer-reviewed tool assesses the likelihood that someone at an event will be carrying the novel coronavirus.

Going to a bar tonight in Boise, Idaho or Reno, Nev.?

There's about a 50-50 chance someone carrying COVID-19 will be there too.


The odds are even greater in small college towns such as Laramie, Wyo. and Bozeman, Mont. 

That's according to a peer-reviewed, real-time COVID-19 risk assessment tool developed by a group of university researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University. It provides county-by-county data to help people assess the risk of going to an event during the pandemic. 

It's comparable to a weather forecast that tells you the percentage chance it will rain. 

"In that same spirit we're showing you the risk that someone where you are has COVID," Mallory Harris, a Stanford doctoral student who helped develop the tool, said. 

She stresses that it doesn't tell you the risk that you'll get sick – simply that someone at the event is carrying the novel coronavirus. 

"If you see that the risk is high where you are, there are things you can do," she said. "Whether it's wearing a mask, going outside or moving the event online." 

As of Friday, the tool suggested there was a very high risk of someone carrying COVID-19 in places where 50 or more people gathered. This is especially true in smaller, more rural communities. 

The tool assumes an ascertainment bias of five or 10, meaning that the map accounts for there being more cases than are reported.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News

Nate Hegyi
Nate Hegyi is a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau based at Yellowstone Public Radio. He earned an M.A. in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism in 2016 and interned at NPR’s Morning Edition in 2014. In a prior life, he toured around the country in a band, lived in Texas for a spell, and once tried unsuccessfully to fly fish. You can reach Nate at nate@ypradio.org.