What Are Coronavirus Mobile Apps?
Coronavirus mobile apps are programs that governments, hospitals, colleges, universities, and other groups are using to aid in the public response to COVID-19. These applications and dashboards can track symptoms, provide the latest data about the spread of the virus, help us limit contact, and much more.
The programs help you find what you need to know about the virus in several ways.
Coronavirus Symptoms Apps
Apps can be an important tool for keeping track of your own health. There are several available on the internet. The COVID-19 Screening Tool from the CDC and Apple guides you through a series of questions about your health and exposure to the coronavirus. It then helps you to figure out if you should see a doctor. It also shares tips for social distancing, self-isolation, and symptom tracking. It's available as an app for iPhones and on the web (www.apple.com/covid19). WebMD also has a screening tool. Other symptom apps include:
- COVID Symptom Study
- COVID Symptom Tracker
Coronavirus Contact Tracing Apps
Health departments use contact tracing apps to find people who may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19. Apps help to capture data and watch the movement of people to make the process faster and more useful.
Some could identify people who might have been exposed to the virus so they know to isolate themselves and watch for symptoms.
Tech giants Apple and Google have teamed up on a platform that uses Bluetooth and a phone’s operating system for contact tracing.
Some people are wary of an app that tracks where they go and whom they meet. Instead of storing data on a central server that may be vulnerable to hackers, Google and Apple say their apps won’t be able to read the raw data themselves. Instead, the information will be available only to health agencies through what’s called an application-programming interface (API).
Contact tracing apps in the U.S. include:
- Crush COVID RI (for Rhode Island)
- Care19 Diary (for Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota)
- GuideSafe (for Alabama)
- COVIDWISE (for Virginia)
Coronavirus Health Monitoring Apps
Combined with special sensors, health monitoring apps help doctors keep an eye on their patients’ health and ease some of the demands on medical staff. They can collect data on people’s vital signs and ask questions about their symptoms, and then send that information to their doctor.
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 accurate at measuring oxygen levels.
Smart thermometers can work together with apps to track your temperature. One company called 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.
Social Distancing Apps
There are lots of ways to use apps to help us lessen contact with others. For example, restaurants can use them to alert customers when their table is ready to avoid crowded waiting areas. They also help delivery drivers to confirm contactless deliveries. Some apps can help you check the space between you and another person to help you keep a safe distance from others. Social distancing apps include:
Some health care providers have postponed in-person visits during the pandemic. Your doctor may see you virtually through telehealth. You can do things like schedule appointments, upload information like your blood sugar levels, and video chat with your doctor. There are dozens of telemedicine apps, including:
- Doctor On Demand
Things to Look Out For
Social media apps are useful for sharing important information about the outbreak. But some use them to circulate things that aren’t true. There are also privacy and security concerns when it comes to certain apps, especially with ones that log your personal information and movement. Some app makers are working to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining your privacy.
Take precautions to stay away from fake apps. Some claim to track COVID-19 cases, but they’re often really scams to infect and lock your device and demand ransom. The FBI says this type of crime is on the rise. Scammers will even pose as government or health officials to steal your money or personal details.
To protect yourself from criminals, misinformation, and security concerns:
- Do your research. Before you download an app, read about the company that made it and check reviews.
- Check an app’s permissions. Permissions are information that the app can access on your device, like your location and phone contacts. Ask yourself if the permissions make sense for the app’s purpose.
- Use trustworthy sources. Make sure that COVID-19 news and information on social media apps and dashboards come from a reliable source, such as a government agency or a recognized health care organization.
- Verify a person’s identity. If someone contacts you through an app and says they work for a government or health group, contact the organization directly to check.