What you need to know about Covid “risk” calculators
With ever-changing vaccination and masking mandates, how do you know how risky the average social situation is when it comes to contracting Covid-19? Enter Covid Risk Calculators, research-inspired tools meant to help the average person determine their level of Covid risk in a variety of situations, from crowded groups of people vaccinated to half-empty planes with a mix of people vaccinated and not. vaccinated.
Covid risk calculators (like this one from Project Microcovid) ask for information that typically includes the number of people present, masking policies, room size, vaccination status, and sometimes even vaccine type for get a more accurate reading of your risk, and often aren’t peer reviewed.
But how reliable are these calculators and their algorithms?
“While it can be interesting, I think these types of calculators can sometimes create a false sense of security,” says Hannah Newman, MPH, director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Does this mean Covid calculators are useless? Not enough. “At the end of the day, these are useful tools, but not the rule,” she says. “Too often I see people using survival as the only endpoint, failing to recognize that there are many unwanted outcomes that are not death, but are still debilitating and have long term impact (such as exposing potentially a person at risk for Covid). “
Newman wants you to think of every Covid protective measure as a layer to reduce your risk to the best of your ability, like masking, social distancing, and ventilation, with vaccination as the benchmark. “The more layers we can put on, the more confident we can be about our health and safety,” she says.
That said, Newman does have a calculator that she believes the public can benefit from. “I’m impressed with the TH Chan School of Public Health Harvard’s risk calculator for indoor environments, which captures risk factors on a sliding scale,” she says.
Ultimately, Newman believes there is no such thing as a zero risk rally, but we can all work to reduce that to the best of our ability. “Risk calculation tools, as long as they are based on verified and accurate data, of course, are not a perfect science,” Newman says. “But can be helpful for someone to choose the types of risks they are willing to take.”
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