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TORONTO – As the COVID-19 situation evolves across the country, the tools to help Canadians assess their level of risk are also being upgraded: This fall, a website that gives Canadians a feel for the virus risk in a given situation has been updated to be more relevant for re-entry.

The COVID-19 Visit Risk Calculator is an online tool that helps you answer the important question: Is this meeting I planned to attend really safe?

Although the tool, created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and funded in part by the federal government, has been around in one form or another since last year, it launched a more detailed version earlier this summer – and now the feedback they have received since then has led them to add even more options.

“We literally just put online this morning at 10 am with the all new type of calculators in English and French, plus what we call ‘decision aids’, both in English and in French,” a said Dr Samir Sinha.

Sinha, a geriatrics expert and one of the developers of the COVID-19 visit risk calculator, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that one of the big updates this fall was to enable respondents to model situations involving children under 12 – a growing concern with returning students.

“A lot of people are particularly worried because children under the age of 12 currently cannot be vaccinated,” he said. “Previously we only had an age limit of under 18, but to be really more inclusive now, we also give people the option to watch groups of people over 12 to 18, but also persons under the age of 12. “

Since children under 12 cannot be vaccinated at this time, being able to only examine this population with the tool instead of looking at a cohort under 18, which would include some vaccinated people. , allows parents and children to have a better picture of the specific risk that young children face.

How the tool works is that when people visit the website, they can take either the three-minute “My COVID-19 Visit Risk Calculator” or the “Visit Risk Decision Aid”. my COVID-19 ”, which is a more in-depth, 10-minute questionnaire.

In either case, respondents can enter information about themselves, such as the province they live in, their immunization level, age, and risk factors, and then information about the meeting they hope to attend.

This may include the number of people expected, whether inside or outside, the level of immunization expected of other people at the rally, and public health measures that will be impossible to track during the rally, among others.

At the end, the tool tells you if the collection is likely to be low, moderate, high or very high risk.

According to a recent press release, more than 120,000 Canadians have used the three-minute risk calculator to assess their gatherings so far.

Sinha said they listen to the feedback they receive and want to adapt this fall update to people’s current concerns about back to school, larger gatherings and the rise of the Delta variant.

“One of our promises from the work we do is that we will continue to examine the science,” Sinha said.

“Public health guidelines are changing, for example, allowing people to do things with larger groups of people. We wanted to start reflecting this in our tool. So we want to give people options.

He said the tool previously only offered the option to select gatherings of up to 10 people, as gatherings were much smaller earlier in the pandemic.

“Now we want to give people the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to a concert, there might be over a hundred people here at this gathering,’” he said.

Another change is being able to say that you are not sure about the immunization level of others around you.

“A lot of people would say, you know, when you get together with a small group of people, say you get together with another family, you usually know what their immunization status is, but when you get together more and more with more people. larger groups where you really aren’t sure everyone’s immunization status, people wanted more opportunities to say ‘not sure’ [when filling out the online tool]”Sinha explained.

The comments didn’t just point out what they could do better. They received many insightful responses from people who thanked them for helping them understand that some situations were riskier than they thought – or safer than they thought.

“Overall the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with people just saying it really helps them strengthen their understanding of the associated risks,” Sinha said. “It gave them confidence to be able to return and meet their loved ones, families or friends, but in a safe way.”

Risk calculators allow you to assess how low or high you think the risk is before the calculator reveals what it believes to be your risk. It helps people see if they perceive things to be much safer than they actually are, or vice versa.

“It’s almost an opportunity where people say, ‘oh my god I actually thought it was weak but you told me it was moderate [risk]. ‘ And then it’s an invitation for them to read education, ”he said.

The page where the tool tells you your risk level includes a detailed breakdown of the questions you have been asked and how they may or may not contribute to your risk.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) got involved last year after the NIA launched its original online tool, which only included 10-minute decision support. Sinha said PHAC has looked at the design of other similar tools around the world and found theirs to be the most comprehensive, asking them to create a shorter version to attract more people. It is this version, with the two calculators, which was launched last June.

He added that 12% of those who use the tool are multiple users, coming back to use it again for other situations.

“We hope that many who have used in the past will come back, check out the new version and see if it meets their needs,” he said.

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