February 15, 2022

Planning a get-together? This online tool estimates your COVID-19 risk

TORONTO —
Canadians are planning their summer get-togethers with an endless array of questions: What is safe, how can we meet up, and how do I protect my family and guests?

The National Institute on Aging has issued a new online tool called ‘My COVID-19 Visit Risk,’ in partnership with Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), to help assess the risk of exposure in this phase of the pandemic. And it’s been a resounding success, according to one of the developers.

“Within the first 72 hours we had over 32,000 users from across the country,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatric specialist at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto and a member of the National Institute on Aging.

“I think with vaccination, we now have newfound freedoms ahead of us, but I think people are really nervous about how to actually negotiate that,” said Sinha.

The online tool’s three-minute Risk Calculator offers guidance on how to plan gatherings. Sinha, in fact, suggests it could be added to party invitations so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to COVID-19 precautions.

“Saying that if you’re getting together outdoors with a small group of friends and having a gathering and you’re all fully vaccinated, probably no need to wear masks and to physically distance, and I think these are the signals that Canadians are looking for.”

There is a certain social awkwardness in physically reconnecting after the past 15 months of advice to isolate, stay at home, and stick with family.

Sinha says comments about the tool have ranged from thank you to people who complain they no longer have an excuse to skirt visits.

“We had a comment from someone who said, ‘Oh my gosh, I was hoping this is going to be a high-risk event because I don’t really want to go visit, you know, my friends, but you know your tool told me that this is a low, low-risk event so I guess I have to go.”

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