Wednesday, August 19, 2020

UA Launches 'Covid Watch' Virus Notification App

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHRIS RICHARDS/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
  • Photo by Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona has announced it is employing a new app where students, faculty, and staff who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 can anonymously notify others who may have been exposed. The COVID Watch app is available on Google and Apple devices, and is "able to calculate a person's level of exposure risk by assessing duration of exposure to an infected person, distance from an infected person and the point in the infection arc at which a user was exposed."

The COVID Watch app is being developed by UA in partnership with the nonprofit organization of the same name, co-founded by a UA alum Tina White.

According to UA, once installed, the app generates random codes while logging anonymous codes from other nearby COVID Watch apps. These anonymized codes are exchanged via Bluetooth signals. To prevent false alarms, users who test positive for COVID-19 must input a verification code from a lab, doctor, or medical center. At UA, this code will come from Campus Health. The app will then send an exposure notification alert to other COVID Watch users whose phones were registered as being near the infected patient's phone.

However, this means the app can only track possible infections through the population if users have their phones on them. 

"The app is a vital part of our plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as we return to campus over the coming weeks with our on-ramp approach,” said UA President Robbins Robbins in an announcement for the app.

Joyce Schroeder, head of UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is leading the app's development for the campus.

While the app isn't mandatory for UA students and faculty, Schroeder encourages all members of the UA community to "do their part" to maintain a low level of viral transmission.

While other infection tracking apps use GPS to track location, Schroeder says Bluetooth is preferable because it allows users to be "completely private."

For more information, visit covidwatch.org

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