Home Pioneer Squared Conquering COVID-19: There’s an App for That!

Conquering COVID-19: There’s an App for That!

When air travel safety standards were viciously violated by terrorist hijackers in 2011, inflicting a death toll of more than 3,000 innocent victims, not to mention the destruction of four jetliners and two skyscrapers, America was quick to respond. An entire infrastructure was put in place by the federal  government. The newly founded Department of Homeland Security architected and implemented numerous safeguards including  passenger scanning for detection of metal objects, concealed weaponry, known contraband, as well as cockpit reinforcement, and a host of security policies and protocols.

Few complained that TSA airport screening or hand searches were a violation of their personal liberty (even though they were physically intrusive).

Today, when human life itself has been devastated by a virulent pandemic, and the death toll has reached the same number of 3,000 casualties, only EACH DAY, there is no federal standard for even mitigating the crisis. An inept administration, more concerned with political self-dealing and divisiveness will not even allow health care experts to speak the truth out loud. 

These United States have long been associated with the notion that we will arrive at the best solution to a problem only after every other alternative has been exhausted. That day is growing closer!

The life sciences community has finally delivered the first of several vaccines, completely apart of the misguided presidential Warp Speed initiative (Pfizer funded itself).  The first vaccine has begun shipping today.

So where is the rest of the tech industry in applying innovation to attack or prevent the deadly effects of the disease?

WA Notify alerts users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

In Washington state, WA Notify (short for Washington Exposure Notifications) is a new tool that works through smartphones to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19.  The system is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go. 

Models based on three counties in Washington state have shown that even a small number of people using WA Notify can reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

When you enable WA Notify, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people you are near who have also enabled WA Notify. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these random codes without revealing any information about you. If another WA Notify user you’ve been near in the last two weeks later tests positive for COVID-19 and adds their verification code to the app, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.

How Does It Work?

  1. You test positive for COVID-19, or
  2. You receive a notification that you may have been exposed.

If you test positive, and public health reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will generate a verification code and help you enter it into WA Notify. The code is not tied to your personal information. Public health has no way to know who will be notified by the app about exposure when you enter your code. The notification will not include any information about you. The more people who share their codes, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully. The notification will not include information about who may have exposed you or where. It’s completely anonymous.

WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), or other users. Participation is entirely voluntary. Users can opt in or out at any time. For more information about how user privacy is protected, see the WA Exposure Notifications privacy policy.

How do I add WA Notify to my phone?

In the 1880s, in response to smallpox outbreaks, some public schools began requiring students and teachers to show vaccination cards. In the 1960s, amid yellow fever epidemics, the World Health Organization introduced an international travel document, known informally as the yellow cardEven now, travelers from certain regions are required to show a version of the card at airports.But now, just as the United States is preparing to distribute the first vaccines for the virus, the entry ticket to the nation’s reopening is set to come largely in the form of a digital health credential.

In the coming weeks, major airlines including United, JetBlue and Lufthansa plan to introduce a health passport app, called CommonPass, that aims to verify passengers’ virus test results — and soon, vaccinations. The app will then issue confirmation codes enabling passengers to board certain international flights. It is just the start of a push for digital Covid-19 credentials that could soon be embraced by employers, schools, summer camps and entertainment venues.

Nonprofits and tech companies developing Covid-19 health pass apps say their aim is to create credentials as trustworthy as the W.H.O.’s paper yellow card. And they argue that the smartphone apps — which people may use to retrieve their virus test results and immunizations directly from their heath providers — are more reliable than paper health documents, which may be forged.

Clear, a security company that uses biometric technology to confirm people’s identities at airports and elsewhere, is already operating a Covid app. Called Health Pass, the app has been adopted by some professional sports teams and insurers, where employees may use it to confirm their coronavirus test results.

Three of the apps being developed to help people verify their health status

Once vaccines roll out, the company said, the app will be able to check users’ immunizations as well. But no Covid-19 health pass has received as much fanfare as the CommonPass app, developed by the Commons Project, a nonprofit focused on building technology for public use. The group began developing software to help people retrieve and use their medical data well before the start of the pandemic. But spikes in virus cases around the world this spring accelerated its work.

RealNetworks MaskCheck App

MaskCheck is powered by SAFR® from RealNetworks

Seattle-based RealNetworks has unveiled MaskCheck™ powered by SAFR®, a free face mask compliance app, service and data platform to help communities, businesses and public health officials safely operate and reopen by encouraging and assessing face mask compliance. MaskCheck is an especially powerful tool to keep government officials instantly up-to-date with unbiased and real-time mask usage data as many states institute and enforce mask mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19.

MaskCheck is a free COVID-19 face mask compliance app, service and data platform to help communities reopen safely.

MaskCheck kiosk and app view as it screens a man for face mask compliance, and says "Please adjust mask."
MaskCheck kiosk and app view as it screens a man for face mask compliance, and says “Please adjust mask.”

Pulse oximeter apps

Some apps say they can measure how much oxygen is in your blood. This is known as pulse oximetry. Low oxygen levels can be a sign of COVID-19. But researchers say these apps probably aren’t as precise at measuring oxygen levels as they could be. The new AppleWatch Series 6 also includes pulse oximetry readability.

Thermometer apps

Smart thermometers can work together with apps to track your temperature. Kinsa collects data from its thermometer apps across the country to make a real-time “Health Weather” map.

Coronavirus Prevalence Apps

Apps and dashboards can provide the latest information about the virus and also about health and safety resources. The CDC’s official app provides up-to-date news on health and COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) dashboard follows the number of confirmed cases and deaths by world region and hardest-hit countries. You can’t download this feature, but it’s designed for easy viewing on a mobile device.

Coronavirus Research Apps

Some colleges and universities have developed mobile apps to trace and study the spread of COVID-19 and its effects. Users submit data about their health and symptoms to help researchers find ways to prevent future outbreaks. The COVID Control app from Johns Hopkins University lets you enter your body temperature every day to help researchers get an idea of where the next “hot spot” for the disease might be. [24×7]

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