Many new apps claim to be aimed at helping combat the coronavirus. Some provide vital notifications and advice, but others are full of misinformation and scams. That’s why we recommend the following, trustworthy sources.
Always investigate the authenticity and authority of any app or website that claims to provide COVID-19 information. Many of these will let anyone self-report data and publish their own articles without fact-checking.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC)
The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website has a lot of excellent information about the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the primary federal agency tasked with safeguarding public health in the U.S. You’ll find everything from general information and U.S. case statistics, to a symptom self-checker, and guides to make your own face mask.
The CDC also has a wide range of apps including some specifically for healthcare providers. In the “General Public” section, you’ll find kid-friendly apps, as well as some offering workplace safety tools, health-trackers, and advisories.
The primary CDC mobile app is available on Android and Apple devices. It contains a great deal of authoritative information about the current state of the pandemic. There’s also helpful advice for U.S. citizens about how best to protect yourself and others from infection.
Due to the current lack of testing availability in the U.S., the CDC app also provides a coronavirus self-checker if you’re feeling sick. It’s not intended to offer a diagnosis; rather, it provides a simple Q&A to help you identify if you might be infected.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a public app for Android and Apple devices that provides important notifications concerning emergencies or outbreaks in your area.
If you don’t want to install the FEMA app, you can still find a tremendous amount of important, authoritative information on its website. It lists places where you can donate or volunteer, sources that debunk rumors, and best practices for dealing with a pandemic.
Most importantly, the app provides vital resources for those in need. Through the FEMA app, you can contact a representative, apply for assistance, find a shelter or recovery center in your area, or file a wide range of claims. The app also provides all of the above information (except alerts) in Spanish, as well.
Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Tracker
The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University uses ArcGIS, a proprietary geographic modeling system to analyze and map data about the current state of the pandemic. One of the best dashboards for tracking the pandemic, the COVID-19 dashboard provides both mobile and desktop views for easier access.
The dashboard is interactive and features in-depth maps and plotted charts. It also provides statistics from official sources that document the rise and fall of cases of the virus in different countries, U.S. states, territories, and populations.
You can also read the CSSE blog for a great deal of insight and analysis on how initiatives like this are impacting the pandemic. All of the raw data from the project is also available on its COVID-19 GitHub page.
The nCoV2019.live Coronavirus Dashboard
You can thank high school junior, Avi Schiffmann, for this overview of important pandemic statistics. His website, ncov2019.live, aggregates several official sources, including the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO). The site presents the total number of confirmed cases and people tested, as well as the number of victims and those who’ve recovered. You’ll see the mobile or desktop version of the site, depending on the device you’re using.
The nCoV2019 dashboard breaks down the numbers globally, regionally, and by U.S. state. These breakdowns also include important differentiators, including arrows to highlight daily spikes, and disparities in vulnerable populations, like Puerto Rico and the Navajo Nation.
The Google and Apple Contact Tracing Initiative
On April 10, 2020, Google and Apple announced a joint project that will identify, document, and follow up on cases of the coronavirus via a series of apps developed around a public API. This device-based approach to battling outbreaks is called contact tracing. It enables your Apple or Android device to notify you if you’re within range of someone who was previously exposed to, or diagnosed with, COVID-19.
While this presents obvious privacy issues, the ability to trace the path of an outbreak at close range could be a powerful tool for public health defense. Think of it like Pokémon Go, but instead of finding Pokémon, it’s reported to the app’s developer if you come within six feet of someone who’s either had the coronavirus or contracts it in the future. You would then receive notifications and authorized instructions on the next steps from official sources, such as the WHO and CDC.
The project is still in its first phase, so it’s still unclear exactly how this coordinated effort will roll out. Both corporations are trying to be transparent and open about the development process. The first versions are expected to arrive as soon as May. When COVID-19 is no longer a threat, the feature will be removed.
For more information on privacy, Bluetooth, and cryptography specifications, check the Apple and Google contract tracing web pages.
These apps and websites can bring you some peace of mind. They provide authoritative information on COVID-19, whether you’re struggling with the crisis or just trying to manage your own health. Be skeptical, be safe, and wash your hands!