The Indicator from Planet Money - Should I Travel For Thanksgiving This Year?

The CDC recommends we all stay home for Thanksgiving to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. But tens of millions of Americans are expected to travel anyway. If you're one of them, here's how you can think about the risk you're taking.

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Hey Allison. Hey, Stacy, Allison Schrager is an economist with the Manhattan Institute. She specializes in Risk. Okay, so I am calling you because you sent me a text. And you said have you thought about doing a show about be easy and updating. I know we talked about risk assessment, but going into next year phase is it based seems important to understand. You don't typically reach out to me in this way. So so I when I got this text, I was like whatever. This is. It's really important. I need to call Allison up and figure out what this is and why we all need to know this.

Yeah, so I thought of it cuz I was watching TV and of course they were telling you all owing CDC guidelines, which I am not disputing it. All even if you get a test, you should not visit for Thanksgiving even if you test negative for coping with your plan is I'm to get a rapid test on there go see my family still don't do it still high risk and or a high-risk. It's like it's still like everyone's going to get sick. They said it must have the certainty and it struck me that you know, when you think about how you going to manage risk and covid-19 really a very so difficult problem is Ian.

This is the indicator from Planet Money. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith risk. It's pretty much all we hear about lately the risk of traveling the risk of not wearing a mask the risk of spending the holidays with live people the risk of covet on the show Economist Allison Schrager walks us through how she's approaching wrist this holiday season and how we can better assess our own situations.

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Busy and so, okay. What is Bayesian if it looks like it's this man Thomas Paine. Yes, philosopher and in the 1700, so this was a while ago, but he had he came up with this Rule and what are the rules say? What's your name and how you can estimate the probability of one thing happening given the another thing has happened or is likely to happen to the odds that you're going to go see your grandmother and then you're going to kill her. You know, where is one probability biasi? You're going to go see your grandmother and you're going to kill her given that you have a negative test is a different probability. Okay. Neither is Euro, but they are different and that's what I mean by Daisy and like you haven't there's a certain probability. You have a test. It's a negative result. So glad you're not going to affect your grandmother. So how is this coming into play now because we're in for this particular moment with covid-19 R2 cases are surging a cities like it seems like

Had been opening back up, but now it's rid of seems like the trending nationally is that they're closing back down. So how does this play in two days and and risk and and how we live our lives and deal with the holiday. What do you do? If you want to update your probabilities and risk assessments as new data comes in, you know, you're safe to do or get a change if your community infection rate is 2% vs. 50% right? Do you want to account for that? Also coming in next year as they treatments like anybody treatments become more available that also might affect your risk assessment updating with new information. In fact that you remember back in March when they said she million Americans were going to Die Edition all this criticism about those projections. It turns out that some of those projections work right because they didn't account for human behavior that people might distance so that was Sunday's Ian Bayesian would always be like aren't given this new information. Let's adjust our probability estimates.

it seems like everybody's gone one of two directions either like stay inside with a mask and have no contact with other people or

throw your mask to the wind. Forget it. Let's just live our lives. It seems like there's been sort of a polarization. So is there like a Bayesian middle grounds yet? If you're amazing, you would occupy the middle grounds, which is you adjust your behavior as risks changes information changes, right like back to your grandmother projection. Like how risky is this? Would it change if she got an early vaccine? Right? Right. So that would be a busy and like, all right. Well, I mean it back to you. So maybe then you would be more open to it. And this is going to be really important in the coming year as a vaccines are rolled out. Some people are going to have it some people don't I will take a while for Community herd immunity rapidly as next year rules on. So what would it be in Thanksgiving was fine this year.

Well, it depends on your risk tolerance and also depends on where you live and how you could easily travel. Okay, right. If you're in a really high breakout State know probably the odds of infecting other people and worst thing that has spread is very very high. If you're somewhere where it's less risky and you take a lot of precautions like getting tested near traveling by car still not a guarantee, but probably a lower risk and is it said you wanted when you make those wrist decisions Incorporated they said like if I have a negative test, what is the probability zero but certainly lower than if I don't so, what about you for your Thanksgiving what I know you live here in New York. What are you what are your Thanksgiving plans? Are they Bayesian?

They are enough struggle with it because you know, I know you know, my mother doesn't live very far away and so I can get there easily but don't get on the plane. I've already gotten one rapid test them to get a second one morning of leaving and I chose to go on a more expensive train that is emptier where you can guarantee your own seat.

So I am taking I'm taking the Bayesian approach. And so your mother is obviously has not gotten the vaccine cuz nobody really has she's in a higher risk group maybe so you have like sort of tried to mitigate risk in the kind of Transportation you're taking and you're getting a couple of tests. Yes to to test one morning oven again. It's not a guarantee. I'm definitely taking more risks and I sat at home, but I just said I need to getting the rest to some extent.

How do you think as a country we are handling the the covid-19?

Public Health failure that we're not really talking about do you do any other Economist e things for Thanksgiving do you like I don't know.

Divide the pie in a special way. Oh, yeah. I'm an economist all the time even getting testing. It's a 3-hour wait where I live that right now to get a test in New York and then I got so I was in line the other day after 3 hours and got so annoyed cuz then I learned that there's a private Clinic that for an exorbitant fee will just test you for for money and there's no way she didn't like in line being like what the value of my time and is this worth the fee that I thought was outrageous. So I might splurging pay for a chest instead of taking one of the free there free, but like I noticed was talking to people online that no one else has been good opportunity cost the way I was

I like this is three or four hours of your time. Well, Happy Thanksgiving Allison. Thank you for talking with us. You too, and I hope you have a great time with your with your mom will be very busy. This episode of the indicator was produced by Nick Fountain fact-checked by Sean Saldana. The indicator is edited by Patty Hirsch and is a production of NPR.

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