One State Launches Online Tool to Help Residents Gauge Risk of Exposure to Covid-19

Oleksandr Dudnyk/

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services launched the "Decision Tool" after contact-tracing data showed an increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases linked to mass gatherings.

Citing contact-tracing data that showed an increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases linked to group gatherings, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services this week launched an online tool meant to help residents assess the risk of exposure to the virus when participating in various activities.

“The safest choices are to stay home and wear a face covering when you are out,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “At the same time, we know from the data that people are choosing to participate in activities that put themselves and others at risk, and we hope this tool will assist people in making safe choices. I understand the pull to see family and do the activities we love to do, but we also need to protect ourselves and each other as much as possible.”

The “Decision Tool For Individuals and Families,” located on the department of health’s website, features a series of drop-down menus with questions and answers that explore risk factors at home, activities outside the house and conditions in the community. (The "activity" menu, for example, includes the question, "Will the activity take place indoors or outdoors?," with information on why the answer affects a person’s risk of exposure to Covid-19.)

“By providing questions to answer, scenarios to think through, and the available evidence behind certain recommendations, the tool is designed to give Wisconsinites necessary information to make choices that will help stop the spread,” the health department said in a statement.

The decision tool’s launch comes as the rolling average number of daily cases in the state continues to decrease, while the number of positive cases linked to mass gatherings is trending upward. Data obtained from contact-tracing calls showed that positive Covid-19 cases linked to parties or gatherings grew from 7% of cases in May to 21% in June and 20% in July, according to the state.

“All activities involve some level of risk, and depending on the individual participating and the community where the activity is located, that risk is evolving and multi-dimensional,” said Andrea Palm, the state’s DHS secretary-designee. “This tool gives people additional questions to consider when making decisions about which activities to participate in.”

As of Thursday, Wisconsin had 68,233 confirmed coronavirus cases. Over the past two weeks, the state saw 174 new cases per 100,000 people, the 24th-highest per-capita rate in the country.