News surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is constantly changing, hour by hour. The best way to help your community get through this is to stay at home, maintain your distance from anyone around you, wash your hands regularly, and disinfect any surfaces you use often. Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital provides a way for you to keep up with the virus’s impact on your community, right from your phone in the safety of your own home. Here is a brief introduction to the new “COVID Near You” app!
What is the “COVID Near You” App?
Testing for the virus is still very limited in the United States, but people are still anxious to know what is happening in their area. We often don’t have access to updated numbers for our immediate community, so the makers of this app set out to solve that problem. “COVID Near You” allows people to log their symptoms in real-time, only identified by their zip code, not their personal identity. This will help experts track what areas are being greatly affected by the virus, areas that are not so highly impacted, and at what rate it is moving. This will also show users the reality of the situation we are in; if people notice a high amount of COVID-positive people in their area, they are less likely to venture out in public when it’s not absolutely necessary. People will also take more seriously the need to protect themselves: face masks, social distancing, etc.
The app was developed by HMS and Boston Children’s Hospital’s HealthMap team. The team was founded in 2006 and “uses informal online sources to monitor disease outbreaks and track emerging public health threats in real-time.” They had great success with their “Flu Near You” app when influenza was ravaging the world. This tracker for COVID will utilize the same “crowdsourcing technology.” It is supported by different data companies such as Datadog and donated time from engineers and web designers throughout the U.S.
The “COVID Near You” app is for any U.S. resident age 13 and over. It is completely anonymous and takes very little time to report your symptoms and receive feedback. “COVID Near You” offers a visual representation of all the cities in the U.S. being affected by the virus and how prevalent it is in that particular area. It is designed to not only help inhabitants of each city determine to what degree the virus is affecting their community but also to help health care workers determine a course of action best fitting their community.
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