Hokie Ready: There’s an app for that

By Jenny Kincaid Boone

virginia tech logoEmergency contacts, safety alerts, and a COVID-19 screening tool for employees and students — there’s a new Virginia Tech app for that.

On Aug. 3, the university rolled out a new safety app, called Hokie Ready that, along with offering critical emergency information and resources, will house a health screening tool specific to the coronavirus. The app is available for Android and Apple devices, with a gray home screen background and maroon and white buttons that indicate various features.

The Hokie Health survey is a tool for employees and students that, in the spirit of our Community Wellness Commitment, allows them to perform a self-check on their health each day before coming to any Virginia Tech campus or location. Listed in orange lettering on the app’s home page, the survey contains three yes or no questions similar to those that may be asked at a dentist or doctor’s office.

The questions are:

● Have you traveled internationally or from an area that has seen a concentrated COVID-19 outbreak or a high risk of transmission in the past 14 days?

● Have you been in close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 14 days?

● Are you currently experiencing any of the following symptoms that you cannot attribute to another health condition or activity? (Fever [or feeling feverish], cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new gastrointestinal symptoms).

After answering the questions, users will receive a message indicating if they should or should not attend work or class that day. If the survey indicates that an employee should not physically report to work, the app recommends that they contact a health care provider to see what additional actions are needed.

If the survey indicates that a student should not attend class in person, the app directs them to the Schiffert Health Center for further screening.

“We wanted the questions to be as straightforward as possible,” said Jen Averill, emergency planner with Virginia Tech Emergency Management, who has been leading the team to design the new app. “The primary goal is to have people pay attention to their health.”

In an effort to ensure a safe work environment for everyone, all faculty, staff, and wage employees are expected to complete the survey each day and notify their supervisor should the app recommend they not come on-site for work.

For those who do not have a smartphone, they can complete the survey online or in a paper form, specifically for students and for faculty, staff, and wage employees. There also is a paper form for those who contract with the university for goods and services.

Overall, the health data will be used, in the aggregate, to make decisions about Virginia Tech operations as they relate to safety during the pandemic, said Andrew Marinik, assistant director of Emergency Management.

For example, if a growing number of Hokies have COVID-19 symptoms, the university may use that information to make adjustments to campus activities, Marinik said.

“We won’t be looking at individual information,” he said. “It’s more about rates and numbers and percentages so we can try to adjust our operations to manage the spread.”

Individual outcomes of the health assessment will be available through the app to the user until the next time they complete the survey. Results data will be deleted after 24 hours.

The Hokie Ready app, which replaces the previous LiveSafe app, includes a variety of safety features. It provides contact information for emergencies, a button for reporting police tips, and a friend walk that allows users to send their locations to friends and loved ones so that they can monitor their walk to a specific destination safely.

Another helpful feature of the app is the ability to add a global service function, which offers Hokies who are traveling internationally the emergency contact information and other resources available in a particular country.

In the future, Marinik said he hopes the app can offer emergency information as it relates to events on campus, such as football games.

The app’s content can be changed and updated easily by members of the Emergency Management team. The ability for quick adaptation is especially helpful in the midst of the pandemic, as information changes rapidly, Averill said.

“We will continue to serve up information,” Marinik said.

Please review the Community Wellness Commitment to learn how the Virginia Tech community pledges to care for the health and well-being of others during this time.


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