Alabama health, education officials announce coronavirus contact tracing apps for college students

Credit: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health and The University of Alabama System discussed the state’s contact tracing apps in a news conference Monday morning.

Posted: Aug 3, 2020 10:02 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2020 4:45 PM

UPDATE: Officials said there are three key components, the Healthcheck app, Exposure Notification app and Event Passport app.

The Healthcheck app is described as a coronavirus assessment tool where users can report symptoms. College students in Alabama are required to use it, officials said during Monday's news conference. UAB says "All higher education, as well as K-12, businesses and organizations, must opt in for students or employees to access and use this tool."

The Exposure Notification app is available to anyone in Alabama with a “.edu” email address to participate in a closed pilot launch. It’s limited to 10,000 users per platform for Apple and Android, or 20,000 in total. It will anonymously alert you if you’ve come in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Close contact is considered 6 feet or less of exposure for at least 15 minutes.

The Event Passport app is described as an “assessment tool for meetings, conferences, and events of more than 10 people.” "After completing HealthCheck, an algorithm renders an event passport for presentation at events. Green means an individual is good to attend, while red means you should not attend," UAB said in a statement.

Officials worked with Apple and Google in developing the apps. They said 20,000 people are invited to participate in the Exposure Notification app on Monday.

Right now, the apps are intended for colleges and universities in the state, but officials said the hope is to make them available to the public statewide.

The announcement was made while Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer, said he's still watching the number of cases. 

"We continue to be concerned about the numbers overall. We have had an increase in cases in a number of counties as reflected on the risk map you referred to. We have seen a slight decline in the last week. It's fallen by about a percentage point," he said. 

They also discussed coronavirus testing for every college student in Alabama at no cost. Pilot testing has been done in Birmingham since July 26.

It’s planned that more than 200,000 college students will be tested in the next 4 weeks as they return to campuses.

"We have a high degree of confidence we can do this successfully as long as everyone's behavior is in the right manner to be serious about this and for our students to understand that it is vital that they comply with this program because that's the only way they are going to be able to come back to college or the unviersity safely," Dr. Ray Watts, President of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said. 

The UAB Department of Pathology will process tests prior to students’ entry. They are able to process 10,000 to 12,000 tests per day with a turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours. 

"While pilots have been conducted in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa since July 26, mandatory GuideSafe™ Entry Testing (formerly Stay Safe Together™ Testing) will begin at 11 additional locations across Alabama tomorrow, Aug. 4. Two additional sites will open in Marion and Talladega on Aug. 10 and Aug. 14, respectively. Students will receive communication directly from testing@guidesafe.org or testing@staysafetogether.org and be directed to a web link to register for a testing location and appointment," UAB said in its statement. 

Students can use the nasal swabs themselves. 

WAAY 31 asked officials if the test could possibly replace the current nasopharyngeal used widely across the state.

"It will help us with such a large scale crucial for us was that we maintained the same sensitivity that we were doing with the nasopharyngeal swab. we went ahead in the lab and validated that indeed we are not going to be losing sensitivity by switching to that. there are a lot of studies showing that it is equally sensitive. that was the only reason we moved to that and that will benefit us we anticipate patients down the road switching to that platform," George Netto, with the UAB Department of Pathology said. 

On Monday, leaders in Madison County said since the test is not widely used currently they had some questions and concerns about it. 

"It is not something that we will work with in the hospital. Obviously, we hold ourselves to quite a high standard, and we can only use things that are approved under the emergency authorization use by the FDA, so I don't have any information on the self administered [tests]," Dr. Pam Hudson, Crestwood Hospital CEO, said.

"I hope that it's not a false sense of security. We don't know what the false positive or false negative rates are, but again it's another method that I think will probably be very successful in the days ahead, but currently we don't really know the success rate of these tests," Dale Strong, Madison County Commission Chairman added. 

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said he thinks the new self adminstered test shows a lot of promise. The turnaround time on results is expected to be up to 48 hours. Students need to quarantine until the recieve those results, according to UAB. 

Visit www.guidesafe.org for more information.

FROM EARLIER:

On Monday at 10 a.m., officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health and The University of Alabama System are giving an update about the state’s contact tracing app.

The app is called "GuideSafe.” A news release from the state’s health department describes it as “the uniting platform/brand for ongoing communication about COVID-19 testing, tools and actions, and was developed by a team of experts at UAB to promote a safe entry to higher education campuses and ongoing COVID-19 monitoring for students and the community at large.”

GuideSafe is funded by $30 million from the federal CARES Act.

The following representatives are participating in the news conference:

  • Finis St. John, chancellor of The University of Alabama System
  • Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Dr. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Sue Feldman, associate professor of health informatics, UAB School of Health Professions
  • Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 190891

Reported Deaths: 2374
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30755458
Davidson26474306
Hamilton944394
Knox937879
Rutherford929389
Williamson525236
Sumner481998
Wilson347645
Putnam331540
Montgomery307044
Unassigned29495
Bradley293417
Out of TN289627
Madison287764
Sevier262315
Blount251624
Maury236124
Washington229736
Robertson221035
Sullivan216433
Hamblen191426
Tipton181819
Gibson165823
Trousdale16577
Hardeman157026
Wayne14975
Dyer137014
Bedford134517
Dickson125715
Coffee123613
Cumberland120118
Weakley118919
Fayette118819
Henderson118124
Anderson117913
Loudon11726
Obion117110
Carter116828
Greene115644
Jefferson111914
McMinn111925
Warren10617
Macon105521
Lawrence104313
Monroe103618
Hardin103016
Lauderdale98316
Franklin9699
Haywood96921
Lake9192
Roane8954
Carroll88920
McNairy88318
Bledsoe8544
White8379
Rhea83412
Hawkins81218
Cheatham80710
Marshall7565
Cocke7469
Overton7456
Smith72311
Johnson7112
Chester63210
Henry6259
Lincoln6191
Giles60717
Hickman5858
DeKalb56614
Crockett53819
Marion5298
Decatur5207
Fentress5053
Campbell4464
Claiborne4425
Polk38810
Grainger3763
Union3591
Benton3369
Jackson3265
Morgan3173
Grundy2915
Cannon2860
Unicoi2861
Humphreys2513
Sequatchie2332
Clay2265
Meigs2263
Houston2203
Scott2142
Stewart2042
Lewis2011
Moore1751
Van Buren1660
Perry1500
Pickett1162
Hancock1063

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