For weeks, public and health officials have urged Americans to refrain from Thanksgiving gatherings as coronavirus cases spike across the country, and no place has been hit harder than Texas.
The Lone Star State was the first to cross the threshold of 1 million total cases and reported 1,115,371 cases on Tuesday. The state’s seven-day average has more than tripled since October, with areas such as El Paso imposing curfews to keep residents from mingling outside their immediate families.
Bexar County has seen its coronavirus cases rise more slowly than many of Texas’ other major metropolitan areas, but the 1,127 cases it reported on Tuesday represented the highest single-day increase since July and the eighth-highest increase in the area overall.
Still, many residents will gather with loved ones and friends on Thursday, possibly creating what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has termed a “surge superimposed on a surge.”
But what are the chances of actually being exposed to an infected person at a holiday gathering in Bexar County or other counties in Texas? It depends on where you’re planning to go.
The Georgia Institute of Technology created a nationwide map, broken down by county, that estimates the odds of encountering at least one coronavirus-positive person at various-sized gatherings. Using public data sets, researchers combine data on the number of people confirmed to be infected in a county with what they call “ascertainment bias,” which assumes there have been at least five times more cases than health officials are reporting. This takes into account people who contract the virus and don’t display symptoms and people who have the virus but don’t get tested.
According to the researchers’ data from Wednesday, there’s a 12 percent chance that you could run into a person infected with COVID-19 at a gathering of 10 people in Bexar County. That number jumps to 23 percent if the size of the party doubles.
Those numbers are lower than the Texas averages of 18 percent for gatherings of 10 people and 31 percent for 20-person gatherings. Of course, those numbers are a balance of 254 counties, some of which are experiencing dire situations when it comes to coronavirus surges. In El Paso County, where officials are looking for more mortuary workers to handle the rise in COVID-19 fatalities, the chance of coming into contact with an infected person at a 10-person gathering is 53 percent, and that number jumps to 78 percent when the crowd grows to 20. In Jones County, where Abilene is located, there’s a 76 percent chance of coming across an infected individual at a 10-person gathering and a 94 percent chance at a 20-person gathering. Both numbers are the highest in the state.
While the surge in infections has caused more than 61 percent of people across the country to change their holiday plans, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll released on Tuesday, a New York Times survey found that 23 percent of people in the San Antonio area planned to eat Thanksgiving dinner with people outside of their household.