COVID-19 Effingham County chart

The White House has designated counties with more than 100 cases per week per 100,000 population as “red zones” – the worst designation. With about 34,000 residents, Effingham County reaches that level whenever its weekly total exceeds 34 cases. The county first exceeded that level on Aug. 1 and has remained there. Sources: Effingham County Health Department, Illinois Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We are so fortunate to live in a very caring area, where people are concerned about their neighbors, friends and family. It is why meals suddenly appear on kitchen tables after a tragedy, clothes after a fire, or money for someone in need. So, it isn’t natural what we need to do this Thanksgiving: Ignore each other and self-isolate.

We are in the midst of a forest fire that we need to put out, not add more fuel to the inferno. And each of us is that fuel which the COVID-19 fire needs to continue growing in size.

Effingham County has had 406 new cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days, putting us solidly in the “red zone.” The White House in April set this designation for counties with more than 100 new cases in the past week for every 100,000 of population, its highest warning level.

Since Effingham County has a population of about 34,000, that means we only need 34 new cases each week to be in the red zone. We are at 12 TIMES that rate, and we have been in it for the last 110 days, since Aug. 1.

In the graph above, please note the almost vertical spike upward in cases in early November. That was shortly after Halloween, which many thought at the time wouldn’t cause problems. It did!

A key predicter of future growth in the virus is the “Rt” score. A number above 1.0 indicates that the virus is expanding. The higher the score above 1.0, the quicker the virus is expanding.

After Halloween, the Rt score got to 1.51, meaning that 100 people with the virus were likely to infect 151 in the next week.

Today, we are down to 1.08. But that still means 100 infected people are going to infect 108 others, meaning that the 406 new cases this week will turn into 438 next week. And the virus continues to spread from there.

After Thanksgiving it is likely to get worse if we don’t take precautions we’ve never done for any Thanksgiving before.

Georgia Tech University has a site to estimate the chances of someone in a group having COVID-19. For Effingham County, in a group of 10 people, there is a 55% chance of at least one person having the virus; at 25 it jumps to an 88% chance; and with 50 it is a 99% chance. At 50, it is likely that at least two are infected.

Please take the long view with this Thanksgiving. Isn’t it better to forego 2020, in hopes of celebrating 2025, 2030 and future Thanksgivings together?

Let’s continue to show the caring nature of our community by not celebrating an event that could be a super-spreader.

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