TORONTO – As the COVID-19 situation changes across the country, tools to help Canadians assess their level of risk are also being upgraded: this fall, a website that helps Canadians with any situation gives an idea of ​​the risk of the virus. Be more relevant to back-to-school.

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COVID-19 Visit Risk Calculator is an online tool This helps you answer the important question: Do I really plan to safely participate in this meeting?

Although the tool, created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and funded by the federal government, has existed in some form since last year, it launched a more detailed version earlier this summer – and the response they got now Since then they have had to add more options.

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Dr Samir Sinha said, “We literally went live at 10 am this morning with a brand new calculator in English and French, and what we call ‘Decision Aid’, in both English and French.”

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Sinha, an expert in geriatrics and one of the developers of the COVID-19 Visit Risk Calculator, told Granthshala.ca in a phone interview that one of the big updates this fall is allowing respondents to include children under the age of 12. to-model situations – a growing concern with students returning to school.

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“Many people are particularly concerned because children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated right now,” he said. “We used to have a cutoff of just under 18, but to really be more inclusive now, we’re also really giving people the opportunity to look at groups of people over the age of 12 to 18. , but then also people under the age of 12.”

Since children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, being able to see only that population with the device as opposed to seeing a group under the age of 18, which includes some vaccinated people. This allows parents and children to get a better picture of the particular risk young children are facing.

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

In both, respondents can input information about themselves, such as the province they live in, their vaccination level, age and risk factors, and then information about the gathering they are hoping to attend.

This may include the number of people who are likely to be indoors or out, the expected vaccination levels of others at the gathering and, among other things, that public health measures would be impossible to follow during the gathering.

Finally, the tool tells you whether the gathering is likely to be low, medium, high or very high risk.

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

Sinha said he listens to the feedback he has received, and wants to tailor this fall update to concerns people currently have regarding back to school, large gatherings, and the rise of the Delta version.

“One of the promises we are doing is that we will continue to review the science,” Sinha said.

“Public health guidance is changing, for example, to allow people to work with large groups of people. We wanted to start showing this in our tools. That’s why we want to give options to the people.”

He said the tool only gave the option to select gatherings with 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 could be over a hundred people here at this gathering,'” he said.

Another change is being able to say that you are unsure about the vaccination levels of others around you.

“A lot of people were saying, you know, when you gather with a small group of people, say you’re gathering with another family, you usually know their vaccination status. What is, but when you’re gathering with increasingly large groups where you’re not really sure of everyone’s vaccination status, people wanted more opportunities to say ‘unsure’ [when filling out the online tool],” explained Sinha.

Feedback just hasn’t explained what they can do better. He’s received lots of illuminating responses from people who thanked him for helping him understand that some situations were more risky than he thought — or safer than he thought.

“Overall the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with people actually saying it just now helped strengthen their understanding of the risks involved,” Sinha said. “It has given them the confidence of being able to go back and visit their loved ones, their family or friends, but doing it safely.”

The risk calculator lets you assess how low or high the risk is before it considers your risk. This helps people see if they consider things to be safer than they actually are, or vice versa.

“It’s almost an occasion where people say, ‘Oh, well, I actually thought it was low, but you told me it was medium. [risk].’ And then it is a signal for them to read education,” he said.

The page where the tool tells you your risk level includes a detailed analysis of the questions you’re asked, and how they may or may not contribute to your risk.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) came after the NIA last year launched its original online tool, which only included a 10-minute-long decision aid. Sinha said that PHAC had looked at designs of other similar devices around the world, and found them to be the most widespread, asking them to make a smaller version to attract more people. This was the version, which had both the calculators, that were launched last. June.

He said 12 percent of those who use the tool are multiple users, coming back to use it again for other conditions.

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