Web application of Where2Test team targets organizations and companies

The risk of infection in the workplace depends on numerous parameters. For the new web application “COVID-19 Workplace Risk Calculator”, the Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) has investigated the complex interactions of all these levers. By using the app, the effects induced by parameter changes can be grasped intuitively. The tool enables organizations and businesses to calculate the infection risk of their employees in the workplace and compare it with the background risk of infection in everyday life. The goal is to create an understanding of how changes of adjustable parameters, such as tests, home and office work, and social distance in the workplace, influence the risk of infection. The app, which was launched in mid-December, can be accessed via the website www.where2test.de.

Viewed from the perspective of infection control, working from home is usually advantageous. The personal contacts and thus the possibility of getting and passing on an infection in the workplace as well as on the way to work are eliminated. However, for many organizations and businesses, working from home is not possible at all or only under difficult conditions. Therefore, it is especially important for them to acknowledge one thing: The keys to ensuring a safe work environment for the workforce are a comprehensive understanding of how various pandemic response measures play out and a proper implementation of those measures.

Where2Test’s new web application “COVID-19 Workplace Risk Calculator” encourages people to engage with this matter. It is available free of charge to all organizations and businesses – in Saxony and elsewhere.

With the intuitive Where2Test app, managers can track how (possibly adjustable) parameters affect the risk of infection in the workplace. These include the attendance rate or the average interval between regular COVID19 tests of employees. In addition, the app takes into account the contact rate between employees, which often varies greatly from one setup to another. In the end, it makes a scientifically sound estimate of the average risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 under certain conditions in the workplace and compares it with the background risk in everyday life – i.e. the probability that an average person living in the area in question and carrying out normal daily activities will become infected within a week.

Input for a fact-based discussion

“Our app is designed to encourage science-based discussions about employee infection risk at work,” explains Prof. Justin Calabrese, group leader Earth Systems Science at CASUS and head of the Where2Test project. “We believe that the background risk is an important reference point for assessing the risk of infection in the workplace. Organizations and businesses should aim to keep the risk of infection at work as low as possible – and certainly well below the background risk. Especially when incidences are high, as they currently are in Saxony, it is imperative that organizations strive to push the workplace risk very substantially below the background risk.”

SARS-CoV-2 testing also plays an important role in developing pandemic strategies. As the web app’s modeling shows, infected individuals are detected more quickly and reliably when testing is done more frequently. Thus, with short testing intervals, the risk of virus transmission can be kept lower even when activity is high in the workplace. Thus, the more frequently an organization tests for SARS-CoV-2 and responds to positive tests, the lower the risk of infection in the workplace.

“The scientific understanding of the Corona virus increasingly suggests that the pandemic is far from over,” said Dr. Michael Bussmann, Scientific Head of CASUS. “Our app helps organizations and businesses develop strategies to reduce the risk of infection when people come together in the workplace.”

The first results of the Where2Test team will soon be reported in scientific publications. In addition, the web application undergoes continuous further development. Future versions, for example, will emphasize the importance of a minimal infection rate in organizations and businesses even more strongly.

The Where2Test project has been running since August 2020 and is funded with a total of one million euros from the budget of the Saxon State Ministry for Science, Culture and Tourism as well as the Corona-Bewältigungsfonds of the Free State of Saxony. Where2Test has an online presence at www.where2test.de. The web app can be accessed directly at www.where2test.de/riskcalculator.

About the Center for Advanced Systems Understanding

CASUS was founded 2019 in Görlitz/Germany and pursues data-intensive interdisciplinary systems research in such diverse disciplines as earth system research, systems biology or materials research. The goal of CASUS is to create digital images of complex systems of unprecedented fidelity to reality with innovative methods from mathematics, theoretical systems research, simulations as well as data and computer science to give answers to urgent societal questions. Partners are the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig (UFZ), the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden (MPI-CBG), the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) and the University of Wrocław. CASUS is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Saxon State Ministry for Science, Culture and Tourism.

The COVID-19 Workplace Risk Calculator is a web-based app. The application is running on all modern browsers. © CASUS/M. Bajda