You've made it through countless lockdowns, changing mandates, quarantines, testing, and vaccines. Now, it's time to decide if you're ready to reenter the world once again. Still feeling a little hesitant to be out and about? This new COVID-19 risk calculator could help.
The MicroCOVID project released a new calculator that can "quantitatively estimate the COVID risk to you from your ordinary daily activities."
"We trawled the scientific literature for data about the likelihood of getting COVID from different situations, and combined the data into a model that people can use," the scientists behind the project explain on their website. "We estimate COVID risk in units of microCOVIDs, where one microCOVID = a one-in-a-million chance of getting COVID."
The aim of the calculator is not to scare you, but rather to "help hone your intuition, lower your stress levels, and figure out good harm-reduction strategies."
Here's how it works: First, input your location (either country or state), then add in your county. This will help the calculator give a baseline number as it tracks current cases and culls prevalence data from places like Johns Hopkins, COVID Act Now, and Our World in Data.
Next, it will ask you to "describe the scenario" or choose one from the list, which includes things like "outdoor, masked, hangout with two other people" or "grocery store for 60 minutes."
For trial purposes, I input my home state of Rhode Island and Washington County. I then asked for the risk of hanging out with two people outside while masked. I was given a "low risk" assessment.
The calculation also provided me with another measure: my "weekly risk budget," which the creators explained to Smithsonian Magazine, works like a "financial budget." Just try to stay within your budget to keep your risk lower.
For my small outdoor gathering, I spent 5% of my weekly risk budget and 10 microCOVIDs each time I did this action. If I moved the barometer from a cloth mask that fits snugly to an N95, that risk went down to just 2% and only took up three microCOVIDs, or a three in one million chance of getting COVID.
What's riskier? According to the calculator, in my home state and county, if I were to hang out inside and unmasked with 10 people who may or may not have received a vaccine yet, my odds of catching COVID skyrocket to "dangerously high," taking up 30 times my weekly risk budget and accounting for 6,000 microCOVIDs.
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The calculator can even get more granular. If I input that it's a party of loud talkers, my risk increases to 30,000 microCOVIDs.
Again, it's not meant to scare you or judge your decisions; instead, it's there to inform you of your personal risk.
"It gives you a kind of common playing ground for understanding all sorts of activities," Ben Shaya, a contributor to the microCOVID project, shared with Smithsonian Magazine. "It separates some of the emotional load out of it."
Check out the calculator and start using it to find your comfort levels here.