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

Cases: 424028

Reported Deaths: 6121
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62258921
Mobile30381549
Madison27160186
Tuscaloosa20779267
Montgomery19049305
Shelby18572114
Baldwin16346182
Lee12515101
Morgan12260113
Etowah11757168
Calhoun11161200
Marshall10199107
Houston8630148
Cullman8036105
Limestone802874
Elmore7849101
DeKalb768897
Lauderdale760083
St. Clair7555120
Talladega6180108
Walker5903174
Jackson581341
Colbert533573
Blount530883
Autauga519855
Coffee443956
Dale398581
Franklin367548
Chilton337665
Russell331710
Covington327768
Escambia319342
Dallas303396
Chambers284269
Clarke282133
Tallapoosa2617107
Pike249429
Marion246250
Lawrence244247
Winston227335
Bibb216247
Geneva202535
Marengo199729
Pickens197031
Hale176442
Barbour173036
Butler170258
Fayette169026
Cherokee160530
Henry154421
Monroe145617
Randolph140735
Washington137726
Clay126745
Crenshaw119544
Lamar118219
Cleburne117723
Macon115035
Lowndes110735
Wilcox103121
Bullock99128
Perry97719
Conecuh94420
Sumter89126
Greene76123
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 687751

Reported Deaths: 8430
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby765191128
Davidson70950665
Knox38829400
Hamilton34687327
Rutherford33228285
Unassigned22839126
Williamson21449140
Sumner18262232
Out of TN1618380
Montgomery14450149
Wilson14449157
Sullivan12606211
Blount11914125
Washington11911191
Maury10962123
Bradley1079191
Sevier10495108
Putnam9952136
Madison9131179
Robertson764585
Hamblen6990109
Anderson6792103
Greene6598108
Tipton621065
Gibson5639111
Coffee562882
Cumberland540072
Dickson536378
Bedford532589
Roane521279
Carter5109112
Lawrence508969
McMinn508573
Warren498753
Loudon495550
Jefferson477975
Dyer474982
Monroe457162
Hawkins446268
Franklin412161
Obion399679
Fayette397851
Rhea382456
Lincoln379444
Marshall345436
Cocke343856
Weakley339948
Cheatham336230
Henderson333057
Campbell324540
Giles321772
White311343
Carroll310459
Hardeman309452
Hardin298147
Lauderdale293731
Macon288850
Wayne261319
Henry260858
Overton253843
DeKalb242341
Haywood239845
McNairy238642
Smith231327
Trousdale228814
Marion228431
Scott225431
Hickman223534
Fentress212831
Claiborne212729
Grainger209035
Johnson201832
Morgan189015
Crockett180738
Bledsoe174210
Chester173837
Unicoi167043
Cannon157719
Lake155519
Decatur147326
Polk143617
Union139422
Grundy139321
Sequatchie137118
Humphreys132817
Benton132135
Lewis127520
Meigs114416
Stewart105520
Jackson104021
Perry94725
Clay93926
Houston93922
Moore8009
Pickett67919
Van Buren6607
Hancock4056

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