Regular visitors to the Save Senior Lives page of our website will notice that we’ve changed the look of both the Town Comparison tool and Massachusetts state map. And while the color changes are obvious, there is more to the changes than meets the eye.
Carefree Pioneers a New Visualization
When Carefree recognized that the senior community was being hit hardest by Covid-19, we realized that the way that COVID-19 infections were being reported wasn’t as helpful as it could be to at-risk individuals. While the reports were useful, what they didn’t do was provide information on the current levels of risk in the local area. Up until we released the CARE Score, virtually every source focused on total infections-to-date.
The problem with that method of analysis is that for the most part, individuals with infections from three months ago are no longer infectious. A much more accurate way to assess infection risk is to identify how many individuals have been diagnosed in the past 2 weeks, because they are still potentially contagious.
Others Now Calculate Risk the Same Way
We’re gratified to note that in August of 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) started publishing a map that mirrors what Carefree has been publishing since early June. While there were a few differences, the way risk is calculated is almost identical.
We both calculate the rate of infections over the past 14 days per 100,000 residents. This allows town to town comparison, even between towns of dramatically different size.
The DPH ‘town rating’ uses the average daily rate of infections for the past 14 days, while we use the total number of new infections identified in the past 14 days to calculate our CARE Score. Thus, our CARE Score for each town is 14X larger than the DPH calculation. Even though our Scores are larger, we’ve adjusted the CARE Score Risk Band definitions for the difference so that towns remain in the same Risk Band as defined by DPH.
Originally, our Risk Bands were determined so that 25% of MA towns were in each of the bands at the height of MA infections – the last week of April. DPH uses an epidemiological approach to calculate the risk bands transitions which we’ve also chosen to adopt.
No Green Light Until a Vaccine is Available
Our primary interest is keeping at-risk seniors healthy. In order to reduce confusion and speak with one voice regarding COVID-19 risk, it makes sense that we adopt the DPH risk bands. We’ve done this, starting with the town data released September 9.
A noticeable difference is the choice of colors for risk bands. We started with yellow, orange, red and dark red for each band as the risk level increases. DPH uses gray, green, yellow and red.
We intentionally have chosen NOT to adopt the colors that DPH uses for a very simple reason. We believe that green may mislead some to mistakenly believe that the risk of infection is low enough that precautions such as wearing masks or physical distancing aren’t necessary.
How to Read the Map and Town Comparison
For this reason, we will use the following colors for both our risk bands and our CARE Score:
Gray Towns which do not receive a CARE Score because the have had fewer than 5 cases in the past two weeks
Yellow CARE Scores from 1 to 55
Orange CARE Scores between 56 and 111
Red. Care Scores 112 or greater
While these changes may make our map and town comparison tool look a bit unfamiliar, we believe that these improvements will help alleviate any possible confusion between our map and the DPH version.
Please continue to follow CDC Guidelines and stay safe!