New government tool asks Americans for vaxx status, mask-wearing habits

Americans unsure whether to get a Covid-19 test over 600 days into the pandemic can now visit an online tool developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and volunteer some personal information to get a recommendation.

“Demand is increasing for [Covid]-19 testing among individuals and families, especially as winter approaches and people shift to indoor activities,” the NIH said on Wednesday, announcing the tool’s release. The individual calculator was developed by the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, set up in April 2020, and comes a year after the calculator for organizations went operational.

When To Test was “developed and tested by computer modelers to help people determine if they are at risk of getting or transmitting [Covid]-19 based on just a few variables, such as vaccination status, transmission rates in the geographic area, and mitigation behaviors” such as mask-wearing, the NIH said.

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The mitigation behavior apparently refers to wearing a mask indoors “consistently” around people one doesn’t live with. There is also a question about being in “close contact” with another person, defined as being within six feet of them for at least 15 minutes. 

The fine-print disclaimer on the bottom of the website notes that it does not provide professional medical advice and does not capture or retain personal information. The NHI and associated enterprises also “disclaim all warranties, express and implied, with respect to this site and the When To Test Calculators and make no warranty of any kind that the foregoing or any results of the use thereof will achieve any intended result or will be error-free.”

The results are “for illustrative purposes only” and by using the calculator one waives all rights to sue the makers for liability, loss, damage or expenses that may arise.

A day after the NHI revealed the testing tool, the Biden administration unveiled new vaccination rules, demanding employers to require vaccines and subject employees who refuse to regular testing. 

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