7 free tools to keep you COVID-safe in 2021

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge around the nation, a little planning with the aid of these tools can help you and your family stay safe.

1. What are the riskiest places for getting COVID-19?

My COVID-19 Risks app
My COVID-19 Risks tool- Activities

The My COVID-19 Risks tool by CareEvolution lets you do a risk assessment on a variety of activities including travel, dining, exercise, specific doctor appointments and more. You simply click on an activity and tap on the options for the setting (indoor/outdoor, small/large), crowd size, duration and other factors. You get a quick read out giving you a risk score from 1 to 10 (low-high) and can change the parameters to see ways you can limit your risk.

For example, before a trip to my local big box store, I entered the following details in the My COVID-19 Risks tool: Shopping-Big box store; parameters- indoor, 25+ people, 1-2 hour visit, with social distancing and sharing equipment (e.g., shopping cart).

My COVID-19 Risks tool- Risk Assessment

My score? 6, Medium Risk – a little high for my tastes, so I moved the parameters a bit to find out how to decrease my exposure risk. I found that limiting my visit to less than one hour reduced my score to 4, Medium Low Risk.

Certain activities seemed less risky than I would have thought, while others were more so…for example, is it safe to ride an Uber during COVID?

After scrolling through various activities, I got a much better picture of how I can help minimize risks to myself and my family by making small changes to my activities. In scrolling through the different activities I found out that certain activities seemed less risky than I would have thought, while others were more so.

For example, is it safe to ride an Uber or Lyft during COVID? According to the My COVID-19 Risks app, it’s a medium low risk (score of 3) for less than an hour with a crowd of 1-4 people. My recent trip to the dentist, however turns out to have been a medium risk with a score of 6. 

The My COVID-19 Risks tool also lets you enter your area code to see how bad COVID is in the area. I also found the “Am I at risk for severe illness if I get COVID?” survey useful.

My COVID-19 Risks tool- Information about COVID-19 in your area and risk of severe illness

It gives you a personalized read out based on your age and underlying conditions like cancer, obesity, pregnancy, smoking and more. This was a useful visual when trying to convince my mom to shop online as much as possible during the holidays.

My COVID-19 Risks tool was funded in part through the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

2. What is the COVID-19 hospital capacity in my area?

As COVID-19 cases surge, hospitals around the U.S. are near or over capacity. Knowing which hospitals are full or nearly full can be critical to deciding where to head for help.


Where Hospitals Are Filling Up map-National Public Radio

With National Public Radio’s Where Hospitals are Filling Up map, simply type in a specific county to see a list of hospitals near you, the percent of beds used overall, and beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. The map runs using information from the U.S. Health and Human Services Protect Public Data Hub and the University of Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project.

3. Was I exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Google and Apple teamed up to create the COVID Exposure Notification System for your smartphone to alert you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. It works by helping contact tracing apps, developed by local public health authorities, send a notification to your smartphone if you were near someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

The COVID Exposure Notification System

If you opt in, your phone will work in the background to send out anonymous Bluetooth tokens checking for IDs associated with positive COVID-19 cases. The ID changes every 10-20 minutes so it can’t be used to identify your location.

The app uses Bluetooth signals to determine how close you are to others. If you’ve been potentially exposed, you’re sent instructions from your public health authorities on how you and those around you can stay safe.

The COVID Exposure Notification System is installed on newer iPhones

If you’re tested for COVID-19 and are positive, you can enter that in the system. The app will then alert those that have been near you. According to the website, the random keys don’t include your location or identity and your identity is not shared with other users or with Google or Apple. Of course, someone might be able to guess it might be you if you were one of a few people they’ve been in contact with.

The app is available on Google Play and the Apple Store. Residents of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, Washington and Washington DC running iOS 13.7 or later on their iPhone can activate the notifications by just going to the phone settings and clicking on “exposure notifications”.

4. How likely am I to get COVID-19 where I live?

Many states are seeing surges in COVID-19, increasing the risk of exposure. The Atlantic’s The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer-led effort to track daily numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. It provides interactive and visually appealing graphs for the entire U.S. as well as at the state level and regional level.

The COVID Tracking Project

The likelihood of getting COVID-19 can change a lot from region to region. If you’re traveling out of state, the “Currently hospitalized Per 1 Million People” map could be useful in terms of getting a better understanding of how common COVID-19 where you are headed.

The COVID Tracking Project also has data on Long-Term Care facilities and a COVID Racial Data Tracker with specific racial/ethnic data on COVID-19 cases and outcomes.

5. When will I be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and where can I find a vaccine?

Several alert systems are now available to notify people when they are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. One website even helps you find locations were vaccines may be available in California. Here are a few examples:

MyTurn (California): Get alerted when it’s your turn for a vaccine in California and schedule an appointment

VaccinateCA (California): This crowdsourced website lets you find available COVID-19 vaccines in California. Searchable by county

VaccinateCA website

VAX (Georgia): Residents can text VAX to 844-554-4024 to get a notification when vaccine appointments open up

Douglas County notification system (Nebraska): Get an email when you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine

West Virginia notification system (West Virginia): receive real-time updates on vaccine availability and schedule an appointment

MY VACCINE (Florida): Save your place in line for a vaccine

Wondering if your state or county has set up a COVID-19 vaccine alert system? Searching the internet using “COVID-19 vaccine alert system” or “pre-register for covid vaccine” and include your state or county.

Finding a COVID vaccine alert

6. Where am I in the line for a COVID-19 vaccine?

The New York times recently published a vaccine tool that can estimate where you stand in terms of the number of people ahead of you. The calculation is based on your age, profession, where you live, and Covid-related health risks. 

New York Times Vaccine Tool

7. What about COVID-19 cases worldwide?

The COVID-19 Coronavirus Dashboard by Information is Beautiful has colorfully illustrated data on topics like case comparisons across countries, riskiest activities for coronavirus, pre-existing conditions highly associated deaths, best household materials for a mask, and more. 


While this is far from a complete list, I hope it helps keep you and your loved ones safe. If you know of another great resource please share it in the comments below.

For information on the new COVID vaccines, including what you can expect in terms of side-effects, check out my post “A light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel”.

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Disclaimer: I am a biomedical scientist by training, and am not an expert in vaccines, infectious diseases, epidemiology, or drug development. Information about COVID-19 is constantly evolving. For the most reliable and up-to-date information, please talk to your doctor or visit the CDC or FDA website.