Back in 2020, before vaccination rollout Founding Director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health (CDH), Dr. Megan Ranney, and Center leadership member, Dr. Liz Goldberg, created a risk estimation and mitigation tool for COVID-19 called the MyCOVIDRisk App. This app received over 1.3 million hits across the United States, and became a valuable tool for monitoring risk during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The publicly available and free app helped people understand their individual level of risk for contracting COVID-19 while navigating their day-to-day activities, such as visiting a friend's house, working out at the gym, or going to the mall.
The CDH team decided to revisit the app in 2021 to make some much needed updates- accounting for Delta prevalence, individual vaccination status, and the vaccination status of others. With all of these updates, the MyCOVIDRisk App is ready for use just in time for the holiday season!
Calculating risk during the holidays
With the holiday season fast-approaching, we know so many of us are looking forward to spending time with family and friends to make up for lost time over the last 18 months. With holiday gatherings, however, comes increased risk of infection. But how high is the risk? And what can one do to mitigate that risk? Enter the MyCOVIDRisk App.
The newest version of the MyCOVIDRisk App offers risk estimates for a wide array of activities including “family dinner”, “going to a house of worship”, and a “build your own activity” for those events that don’t quite fit among the options provided. As users go through the app, they’ll be asked about ventilation, number of people wearing masks, and event duration. All of this data, including the disease prevalence in the selected town of the event, will be used to calculate one’s “Initial Risk Score”. Initial risk scores range from very low risk to very high risk. But the app doesn’t stop there.
Users are then prompted to select mitigation factors and personal behaviors that could reduce their risk score. Things like individual vaccination status, wearing a mask, social distancing, hand-washing, and more become important considerations for how users can lower their risk.
Version 2.0 even asks users if they know the vaccination status of the co-participants at the event. Fully vaccinated means that an individual has either 2 doses of Moderna/Pfizer or 1 dose of Johson & Johnson. After all, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk is for all those who are eligible to get vaccinated (1). After electing various mitigation steps, users receive their Final Risk Score.
What to do with all this information?
Navigating the pandemic’s ever-changing restrictions and allowances can cause a great deal of fatigue and confusion. The MyCOVIDRisk App helps to alleviate some level of uncertainty by providing insights as to how individual behaviors contribute to risk and advising users on how to take control when and where they can. Moreover, the MyCOVIDRisk App uses live data sources so that as COVID-19 prevalence changes users are able to observe their risk in real time. For those attending events in areas of high prevalence or with unvaccinated people, the app provides CDC-recommended actions, such as mask-wearing, vaccination, hand-washing, and more, to help protect oneself from COVID-19 (1). At the end of the day, this app can be a valuable tool in your toolbox for pandemic preparedness.
As we enter the holiday season, we know that spending long hours inside with friends and family will inevitably lead to increased risk. However, as Dr. Ranney notes, where we are now is different from where we were last year now that we have vaccines (2). As of November 10, 2021 the CDC reports 79% of people ages 12 and up are vaccinated with at least one dose (3). Even more promising is that children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine (4). The more people we surround ourselves with who are vaccinated, the lower not only our own risk of COVID-19, but also the risk for our loved ones. The MyCOVIDRisk App can help to quantify that.
Altogether, this user-friendly, free, and publicly available app can help people make conscientious choices around their holiday plans. So consider taking a few minutes before agreeing to that big family gathering to assess your level of risk with the MyCOVIDRisk App. Who knows? You may even find a new suggestion for how to keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible.
If you have any questions about the MyCOVIDRisk app or would like to participate in future updates, do not hesitate to reach us at MyCOVIDRiskApp@brown.edu.
- “Holiday Celebrations.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases, 15 Oct. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/celebrations.html.
- Ranney, Megan L. “There's Good and Bad News about COVID-19.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/07/opinions/covid-19-good-and-bad-news-ranney/index.html.
- “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.” CDC COVID Data Tracker, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-people-onedose-pop-12yr. “Covid-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/children-teens.html.