Southern Miss launches Everbridge app for virus symptom checks and contact tracing | #students | #parents

While researching more tools in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, officials from the University of Southern Mississippi recognized that 18- to 24-year-olds are very mobile-driven – whether that be through phone apps or mobile websites.

With that in mind, it was discovered that many of those individuals are going to Bluetooth and other Wi-Fi means for information distribution, which led to the development of Everbridge, a free mobile app that allows students, staff and faculty to take a symptom quiz for the virus and helps keep track of contact tracing.

“We were able to get information about that and realized that it was a possible tool that we could put into our tool chest,” said Denny Bubrig, assistant vice president for student affairs at the university. “The app is a general all-purpose application.

“If you feel like you are potentially on the fringe, or if you feel like there’s an issue with your health that you’re just not sure about, then that is a resource that you can use to give some sort of gauge to see if maybe you need to go ahead and get tested.”

The app, which launched Aug. 8, can be downloaded at no cost for Android and Apple devices. Users can then search for “USM,” at which point they will be prompted to join a community using their university web credentials.

Users will then have access to the self-check and contact tracing areas of the app. University officials have the ability to share resource information with the school’s Moffit Health Center, which offers COVID testing, and the Accelerator lab, which is where those results are processed.

“We can share information that our Moffit Health Center punches out, information through our dean of students office – managing their academic elements on the student side – and also counseling resources as well,” Bubrig said. “So, it’s kind of a three-pronged approach altogether in the app.

“Each segment is really stand-alone in its own right. Once someone has taken the symptom check questionnaire, if they hit the right metrics on that, then they are prompted that they should consider medical assistance – that they have the potential to be an at-risk individual with this. They are encouraged through that app to seek out a testing facility, to go and get a formal test to see if you’re 100 percent positive or negative.”

An administrative team at the university handles the information given through the app and will speak with individuals on an appropriate basis based on their medical needs. Anyone who is feeling the symptoms of the virus will be encouraged to go to Moffit Health Center for testing.

So far, university officials have pushed the word to the USM family about Everbridge, using press releases, social media and email to educate people about the app. Although university members are not required to use it, they are strongly encouraged to do so.

“Obviously, with something of this nature and the different elements involved, the more members of the campus community that take part in it, the better we can be,” Bubrig said. “The faster we can communicate with the campus community, the more resources that are out there, the more informed that people can be. And it also helps us cut down on time, in the sense of containing anything that may occur.”

Names of individuals using the app will not be shared. Instead, a code will be used that enables the administrative team to see if anyone has been in close proximity to someone who could potentially have the virus.

“And then we have a number of different ways that we can outreach to them to say, ‘Hey, we have reason to believe you might have been in close contact and should consider self-isolation or quarantine,’” Bubrig said. “It is optional, but the more we can get involved in it, the better our results will be, and the more opportunities we’ll have.”

In the first two hours after Everbridge launched, more than 100 people used the symptom check portion of the app, which is equipped to handle thousands of users and inquiries.

“We’re fortunate here at USM that we have a number of creative people, and a number of people that are knowledgeable about what others are using in their toolbox around the country in the higher education community,” Bubrig said. “We listen, and we looked to see what could and could not work at USM. We want to bring those things that we can, obviously, to try and keep our community as safe as we can.”

 




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