While most states have been tirelessly planning a safe homecoming for their campus communities, Arizona doubled down and emerged as the leader in the back-to-school fight against COVID-19. As the first in the nation to deploy Covid Watch – the exposure notification app co-developed, tested, and validated by one of its most prestigious research universities, the Grand Canyon State is paving the way for the rest of the nation to reopen as safely as possible.
The University of Arizona (UArizona), ranked one of the top 15 public research universities in the nation, launched the Covid Watch Arizona app after several weeks of rigorous testing, with the app now available for free download on the App Store and Google Play. Most importantly though, the launch marks the introduction of the first app to use a unique evidence-based dynamic risk model with real-time recommendations to help people make informed decisions on how they can help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Covid Watch is one of the first fully anonymous exposure notification apps built on the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) API in the United States, but it was The University of Arizona’s (UArizona) dedication to research that helped COVID Watch create the most sophisticated exposure app available anywhere. Unlike some recently unveiled solutions that are only now formulating data on certain simulated scenarios, the Covid Watch app has been undergoing extensive testing throughout the UArizona partnership. Everything from the app’s signal strength calibration to the dynamic risk scoring model has been fine-tuned through original research.
The first-of-its-kind risk model was built based on studies conducted by Dr. Joanna Masel from the University of Arizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In collaboration with Covid Watch and UArizona colleagues, Dr. Masel developed a method to calculate the level of exposure risk by assessing the duration of exposure to and distance from an infected person, as well as at what point during the infection a user was exposed. Covid Watch is the only app that actually uses this information to generate exposure notifications and individualized public health recommendations that better reflect real life interactions.
This built-in risk model is also a design element that aids the Covid Watch app’s readiness for wider deployment. It allows for easier regional calibration because it is customizable to the corresponding local public health authority’s current recommended precautions; exposed users will be offered region-specific resources upon notification, as well as information on public health guidelines determined by the area.
The Covid Watch nonprofit organization began in February 2020 as a volunteer-led initiative to create public health technology to slow the spread of COVID-19 while preserving digital privacy rights. Covid Watch now has a team of more than 650 volunteers from around the world with a collective vision of ending this pandemic without sacrificing our civil liberties.