New Variant, New Features

Omicron has forced us all to adapt. The Workplace Testing Planner is here to help you do that — with new features and updates that reflect how the virus has changed, and how we’ve changed to face it.

Kim Noble & Liz Ruark
Image of the Workplace Testing Planner

As of September 20, 2022, this post will no longer be updated.

When Omicron became the dominant variant in the US, we all had to update the tools we use to protect ourselves against COVID-19. The Workplace Testing Planner is a critical tool for workplaces and schools, helping them determine how much COVID-19 screening they need in order to decrease the likelihood of an outbreak. It’s been updated, too - taking into account the changes both in the virus itself and in the tools leaders are using to combat it.  

A New Variant Means New Results

Omicron overtook Delta as the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the United States with terrifying speed. That happened because it’s much better at infecting people than Delta is - including people who have been vaccinated but not yet boosted. 

More than 60,000 people l have visited the Workplace Testing Planner — are you one of them?  If you’ve used the Planner before, you’ll notice that you get different results now, even if the mitigation strategies your organization uses haven’t changed. That’s because the Planner has been updated to reflect how easily Omicron spreads. 

New Planner Feature — Type of Mask

Before Omicron came on the scene, most people in the US were still wearing the cloth masks we’d all gotten used to from the beginning of the pandemic. Because this new variant is so easy to catch, many people have now switched to wearing more-protective KN95, KF94, or N95 masks (cloth masks have a filtration efficiency of only about 30%, while well-fitted KN95 masks and the like have efficiencies of 85% or higher).

The Workplace Testing Planner now allows you to easily factor in the type of masks most people wear at your workplace or school right up front, as part of your inputs. That allows you to quickly see how improving the quality of masks worn at your organization can decrease your need for testing.  

New Planner Feature — Boosters

Vaccination remains our most powerful defense against COVID-19. But — as we noted above - one of the reasons why Omicron has been able to move so quickly is its ability to infect people who’ve been fully vaccinated but not boosted. Omicron infections for the vaccinated are still incredibly unlikely to be fatal or even severe, but this Planner is focused on organization impact, and these infections will keep people from school or work. Experts estimate that someone who’s fully vaccinated has only about 30% protection against infection with Omicron (by comparison, a fully vaccinated person had about 67% protection against infection with Delta). A booster brings that protection back up to 70% again.  

To reflect these changes, the Workplace Testing Planner has had its defaults adjusted behind the scenes - and we’ve added a feature that allows you to indicate whether most of your population has received a COVID-19 vaccine booster. If they have, you’ll notice a significant difference in the amount of testing your organization requires. 

New Site Feature — Spanish 

In addition to all these new features in the Planner, the text of the entire When To Test site is now available in Spanish. We’re thrilled to be able to offer our Spanish-language users the ability to directly engage with the Planner and the Quiz, read our blog, and access resources such as the K-12 Playbook and FAQs.

Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning for a repeat look, you can be sure that the Workplace Testing Planner is up to date with the COVID-19 conditions we’re facing today. Find out what your school or workplace can be doing to reduce the risk of an outbreak.