W&M launches daily health app
More information was released this week on the technology, data and other resources that will guide the College of William & Mary through the COVID-19 pandemic this fall as students return to campus.
The college announced its new “Daily Health Check” application on Wednesday, which students and faculty will use to monitor their physical health. This will be on the university’s mobile application and website as part of its Healthy Together module.
This new application is another aspect of the culture of compliance that the school plans to foster during the fall semester in order to help safeguard students, faculty and the surrounding Williamsburg community.
Panelists in a virtual William & Mary Town Hall session Wednesday answered questions about the decision-making process for their Path Forward plan, and data informing those decisions.
“When you look at the studies that come out of the spread of COVID in any kind of congregate environment, the No .1 distinguish er is whether or not masks were used ubiquitously by everyone,” William & Mary President Katherine Rowe said during the town hall. “So we’re going overboard on the start on this one. We’re going to be very, very conservative, and we’re gonna be really consistent in requiring masks, and there will be people who say this is way overboard, but that is the right place to start.”
William & Mary is working closely with the city of Williamsburg in this transition back to campus, to address the concerns from the community, and to help safeguard the health of community members, as well as the students, Rowe said.
She said these guidelines are about protecting the health of others and apply to students living both on and off campus. There will be consequences for those who do not follow these guidelines, but the college is also going to help people follow these guidelines through training and other resources.
Rowe also encouraged members of the Williamsburg community to follow the same practices students and faculty will adhere to this fall.
“The nation and our region hasn’t shared and hasn’ t developed a common set of norms, and we need them — we really need them — to be able to make it through this pandemic together rather than apart, and we will be much more successful if all of Williamsburg joins us in them,” Rowe said.
There will be additional signage on campus for safety protocols and route changes, such as one-way traffic on staircases, according to Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring. Tents will be added to help encourage people to go outside in spaces that allow for social distancing.
“(We’re) making a lot of changes to what the campus looks like,” Sebring said, “how we move about campus, in ways that are most effective and really consistent with what we’re trying to do in terms of creating an environment that is reducing the likelihood of spread of the virus.”
William & Mary is looking at both national and regional data, and is working on a dashboard that will make it easier to sort through this information and to track community infections.
“That’s going to help to guide our decision-making in the future,” said Dr. Virginia Wells, chief medical officer for Willliam & Mary athletics and a member of school’s public health advisory team. “But it’s important for everyone to understand that as a state institution, we’re limited in what health information we can share about students and employees, and we’re gonna take great care to be in compliance with required privacy.”
Wells explained some of the factors that are going into the threshold criteria for decisions this fall, whether it may be to go fully online or more in-person during the semester. These factors include the rate of infection, the turnaround time for test results, the school’s ability to isolate and quarantine, and the regional capacity of hospital beds.
“We’ll also look at our effectiveness of our social norming,” Wells said. “How good are our students at mask wearing, at avoiding large gatherings, at hand washing and at social distancing? Those sorts of things.”
The Daily Health Check application will provide guidance for users who may have COVID-19 symptoms or who are not practicing healthy habits this fall.
According to Wednesday’s news release, William & Mary will direct students, faculty and staff, on and off campus, to take the Daily Health Check’s four-question survey. There will be questions about wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding large crowds and washing hands frequently and thoroughly.
Students and employees will get a daily prompt, followed by a push reminder if they have not completed a daily check within 48 hours. If the check is not completed within 72 hours, then additional measures will be taken. This may include temporarily freezing some of the individual’s IT services until the check is completed.
“We are creating a culture of compliance that requires community members to take an active role in their personal health and wellness,” vice president for student affairs Ginger Ambler said in the release. “We do that partly by setting clear expectations and also empowering people with the tools and information they need to be compliant. If you are going to be on our campus this fall, the Daily Health Check will become a part of your regular routine.”
According to Chief Technology Officer Corinne Picataggi, the data is collected in a way that protects user privacy. William & Mary is tracking whether an individual uses the app but is not accessing the specific information users provide during their daily health checks. The Healthy Together module will also feature links to other public health resources.
William & Mary collaborated with universities throughout Virginia to develop this virtual tool, and helped other Virginia universities develop tools similar to the Daily Health Check, according to the news release.
“To be successful this year, we must make a commitment to each other,” Picataggi said in the news release. “This tool reminds us to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing to help the community stay well.”
“We’re going to be very, very conservative,” W&M President Katherine Rowe said regarding masks.