AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new app developed by a team of students and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin could soon help minimize the spread of the COVID-19 on campus.
The app, Protect Texas Together, will allow UT students, faculty and staff to record COVID-19 test results, track symptoms and connect to COVID-19 mental health and medical resources in Travis County.
UT computational engineering senior Henry Rossiter and Associate Professor at Dell Medical School Cameron Craddock, along with a team of developers, launched the app this week after many hours and months of work. The team’s mission is to create a comprehensive platform to ensure people can safely return to UT during the fall semester.
- Almost 50% of undergraduate students are attending classes fully online, with the remaining half electing to take a majority of online and hybrid classes.
- 75% of class seats will be online, and only 5% will be in person. The remaining 20% will be offered through hybrid learning.
- Accordingly, 60% of faculty are teaching online-only this semester.
“The goal is to help people monitor their symptoms during this time, so they can quickly identify if they become infected,” said Craddock.
The app has a symptom survey and diary, which will allow users to screen and track symptoms like coughs to fevers. That information is then stored privately on their phone.
“There’s an algorithm we developed with Dell Medical School and University Health Services that looks at those questions and determines whether or not it is safe for you to come to campus,” Craddock said.
If the person does not display any symptoms, they are issued a digital pass through the app.
While positive cases will not be shared by the app, the campus-wide dashboard will display test results from the university through the app. UT will perform 5,000 proactive tests per week and have the capacity to perform 100 symptomatic rapid tests per day.
The app will also allow users to record which rooms they have entered across campus, which will help researchers identify places that could possibly be contaminated.
“We can identify rooms that individuals who have become infected visit frequently, so maybe we can go and disinfect those rooms,” said Craddock.
The app is private and voluntary, meaning no personal information will be stored on a university database. The user can keep all of their data on their personal device and share it if they wish.
The developers will also collect anonymous statistics related to users’ symptoms and social distancing behavior and provide that information to modelers to help better predict the infection rate on campus.
While many schools and businesses are relying on apps to track COVID-19, the issue of privacy is at the forefront. Developers of Protect Texas Together say the school was intentional about creating a private, in-house app to prevent any violations.
Rossiter and Craddock are also adding a feature for contact tracing on the app.
“We are working on functionality where they can do an on-app contact tracing interview and the interview will show them their day by day activities, so it will help them find the window during which they are infectious according to CDC guidance,” said Craddock.
The app is available in Spanish and English in Apple and Google Play stores for UT students, staff and faculty.