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Downward trend?

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After a month of exponential growth in Polk County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, the county might have found itself in a holding pattern. 

As of Tuesday, Aug. 4, the county had 207 confirmed cases, five up from the 202 announced on Friday, July 31.  

The small number is a welcome relief after Polk County added 191 cases of COVID-19 to its total tally over the past month since Saturday, July 4.

Total active cases were down to 36 on Tuesday from 52 on Friday. 

Also, the number of people quarantined dropped, with 136 in quarantine on Tuesday compared to 182 at the end of last week.

The center had not reported any deaths for Polk County as of press time Tuesday.  

A Whitehouse Coronavirus Task Force report released by the New York Times last week revealed Polk County was in the red zone for COVID-19 cases because it had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10%.

However, the Polk County Health Center has said the county could be moving in the right direction. 

If we continue the downward trend, we will move out of the red status,” the center said in a comment on its Facebook page Monday. 

What about that group event? 

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have released an interactive dashboard to calculate the risk of attending an event with someone actively infected with COVID-19 in each county across the United States.

The dashboard — the Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool — is found at  

“We have developed an interactive county-level map of the risk that one or more individuals may have COVID-19 in events of different sizes,” map developer Joshua Weitz said in a news release. “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.”

The risk level is the estimated chance at least one COVID-19 positive person will be present at an event based on the size of the event. 

According to the dashboard, there’s currently a 65% chance of encountering a positive case at a gathering with 25 people in Polk County. 

As the event size increases, so does the probability of coming across someone with COVID-19.  

For an event of 50 people, the percentage jumps to 88%. 

The chance of running into a person with COVID-19 is 98% at gatherings of 100.

Under the Polk County Health Center’s current pandemic plan, events up to 250 people are permitted in the county.   

According to the release, the dashboard pulls data from the New York Times case count and the dashboard, both databases which record confirmed case reports from state-level public health departments. 

Weitz said the dashboard takes the number of cases reported in the past 14 days in each county and multiplies these by an under-testing factor, currently the number of documented infections times 10, to estimate the number of circulating cases in a particular county. 

Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported serology tests, which test for antibodies, show about 10 times more people have antibodies in the jurisdictions tested than had documented infections, the release said.

The release said the dashboard accounts for widespread gaps in U.S. testing for the novel coronavirus, “which can silently spread through individuals who display mild or no symptoms of illness.” 

“Precisely because of under-testing and the risk of exposure and infection, these risk calculations provide further support for the ongoing need for social distancing and protective measures,” the release said. “Such precautions are still needed even in small events, given the large number of circulating cases.”

According to the Georgia Tech website, the dashboard is the work of Weitz, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and founding director of Georgia Tech’s Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences program. He worked in collaboration with the lab of Clio Andris, an assistant professor in the School of City and Regional Planning with a joint appointment in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, and with researchers from the Applied Bioinformatics Laboratory, a public/private partnership between Georgia Tech, IHRC Inc., and ASRT Inc.

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