“One of the biggest consequences parents and communities are facing during the pandemic is a worsened childcare crisis. It’s really a bit of a paradox. Parents are supposed to continue to work, either from home or at their in-person workplaces, while 40% of childcare services are closed—and now most K-12 schools are going virtual, as well. Many cities are beginning to make plans to reopen their economies, but without accommodations for childcare and schools, which will be a critical piece of the puzzle,” says Jessica Chang, CEO and Founder of WeeCare a platform that has the largest network for in-home childcare with 3,000+ locations nationwide and a marketplace that helps both families and childcare providers.
With Chang’s experience in the industry, she has found that the childcare crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19, which has led the crisis to expand beyond the traditional population of 0-5 year olds to even school-aged children. And with consideration for many of the hybrid models that schools will deploy, Chang and the WeeCare team have ventured to support the growing crisis by creating an AI-verified temperature and symptom screening app called Fever Free to support schools as they reopen.
How Fever Free Aims to Support Schools Reopening
“Health and safety is our #1 concern,” Chang shares. As COVID hit, her team endeavored mitigate risk by taking a more proactive and tech-forward approach to facilitating fever checks. After seeing that fever checks were being used in other countries, Chang and team released the first iteration of a virtual temperature check technology—in early March, prior to the US stay at home mandate—on the WeeCare app for their 3,000+ locations. The goal of the technology was to allow both families and daycare providers to demonstrate they were fever-free before arrival.
On the first day of releasing the technology, their goal was realized when they flagged their first fever. Since then, Chang shares: “throughout the pandemic, we have been able to prevent 3 COVID-19 positive individuals from arriving (confirmed afterward), and denied entry to many others (non-COVID), resulting in no COVID-19 outbreaks in our WeeCare locations.” With this service she notes the technology has enabled 90% of their daycares to stay open, compared to the 60% national average.
And after many requests from other preschools, schools, restaurants, offices, and businesses in different industries to use the technology, Chang and team have released the Fever Free app to the public to help every organization conduct safe and efficient health screenings before arrival.
The Fever Free App’s Functionality
“Fever Free was built to prevent the spread of infectious disease by ensuring everyone entering a facility is temperature and symptom-free before they ever arrive. Each morning, entity members like students, staff, and employees take a quick video of themselves while taking their temperature using a digital thermometer. They are then asked to report if they are experiencing any symptoms. The videos are analyzed by our patent pending AI to verify there is not a fever present and that prohibited symptoms have not been reported,” Chang expresses.
In addition she shares that: organizations have full control over their settings and can define a fever threshold, prohibited symptoms, and an automated response protocol. If a fever or prohibited symptom is detected, a custom message is then delivered to the individual by their organization with next steps. And if a fever is not detected, healthy members will receive a clearance badge that can be viewed from 6 feet away upon arrival to their organization and/or school location. Users’ health data is also protected by Fever Free and privacy is protected through the reporting of a Pass/Fail status to designated health managers at each organization.
A Fever Free Success Story
Of the hundreds of organizations using Fever Free, the WeeCare team has already had many success stories, the CEO and founder shares. One in particular was a large day camp where hundreds of campers and staff interacted each day.
By implementing use of Fever Free for staff and families of campers at the start of the camp season, the camp leaders were able to flag fevers and keep individuals home. Throughout the summer, the camp was able to keep the number of COVID cases reported at zero, successfully remaining healthy while staying open.
Fever Free’s Impact on Prescreening for Childcare/Other Industries
The WeeCare team built Fever Free so that all schools and preschools choosing to reopen would have the technology they need to do so in the safest and most cost effective way possible. Chang shares: “the other alternatives out there, such as in-person checks, thermal cameras, and kiosks are extremely costly and inefficient to use—creating long lines at organizations and ultimately not keeping unhealthy individuals from interacting with others. With Fever Free, each member of the community can submit their digital health check through the app from home each morning and view their results immediately, before they ever leave home for school or work.”
Although Chang and her team have endeavored to support schools and facilities during this season, she expresses that her team is not urging schools to reopen, but rather providing a tech solution like Fever Free to keep their communities healthy and safe.
The Importance of Prescreening & Tips for Prescreening Effectively
When planning to visit an establishment, the WeeCare team highly recommends using prescreening methods instead of in-person checks due to the significant reduction in risk of exposure and spread. For schools or organizations that are not using a prescreening tool like Fever Free, Chang and team would recommend the following tips:
- Conduct health screenings in a private location: “This prevents exposure of private health information to others.”
- Keep records: “Records enable organizations to comply with local city/state regulations.”
- Stagger arrivals: “For large organizations, consider staggering arrivals to avoid bottlenecks and possible transmission.”
- Delegate health managers: “Assign designated health managers to limit the number of people with access to private health data.”
WeeCare believes that it is important that schools and other entities have the right safety protocols in place, like Fever Free, before they reopen for in-person classes. “As a parent, I would love for my son to be back at school, but at the same time, I’m not going to risk the safety of my family, especially his grandparents, unless the school has the right safety precautions in place to ensure the health of their whole extended community of teachers, students, and families,” Chang shares. All in all, for WeeCare it’s not just having new cleaning protocols, masks, or staggered schedules for social distancing, but taking the measures needed to ensure no one with a fever or any symptoms is going to school.
WeeCare: The Parent Organization and its Inspirational Founders
“WeeCare works with licensed childcare providers to support them in running their businesses by providing marketing and billing support, messaging and photo-sharing capabilities through the WeeCare app, and tour/enrollment services to keep all of their daycare’s open spots filled. The company also helps parents match with the perfect licensed provider for their family, use advanced payment services via credit or debit card, and provide daily progress reports for their child via the WeeCare app,” Chang shares.
Chang (CEO), alongside co-Founders, Jesse Forrest (CTO) and Matt Reilly (CMO), founded the company in late 2017 to make affordable, high-quality childcare accessible to all families. The inspiration for WeeCare, Chang shares came from her experience searching for childcare options when she was pregnant with her first child. The only options she had found that she liked had waitlists that were roughly two years long and tuition prices that were upwards of $2,000/month. With theses opportunities not being as realistic for many families, WeeCare has provided a solution to this problem. Now, parents looking for daycare can view all of the licensed daycares in their area that are verified by WeeCare, set up tours, and enroll at the daycare of their choice while also having safe fever checks via Fever Free from the comfort of their homes, thanks to Chang and her team.
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