Apple updates its COVID-19 app and launches a new one to help first responders get tested

Apple updates its COVID-19 app and launches a new one to help first responders get tested
Late last month, Apple released a free COVID-19 app that includes a screening tool from the CDC that tells you whether you need to self isolate, see a doctor or get tested. If you're worried about privacy, the CDC says that it does not share the answers you give with Apple. The app also reveals the preventive measures you can take such as scrubbing your hands with soap and hot water for twenty seconds, maintaining social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others, and using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

The COVID-19 app for iOS received an update yesterday and version 2.0 has some new features. With the update, you can now type the name of the state that you live in to receive more localized information from that state's health department. And besides giving you tips on how to avoid getting infected, the app now includes suggestions on how to keep yourself and others mentally healthy. Those in the U.S. 18 years of age or older can install the app from the App Store or find the information online at

Meanwhile, Apple has teamed up with Stanford Medicine on an app that helps first responders in California such as firefighters, police officers and paramedics find drive-through testing sites if they show symptoms of COVID-19. This is accomplished through a survey that asks questions about those symptoms; if they suggest that testing is needed, the results can be shown to the "department infection control officer" at a first responder's job who will schedule the first responder for priority COVID-19 testing at a Stanford Health Care site.

Stanford developed its own COVID-19 test in March and has since used it to conduct over 3,000 tests. It has been able to preserve scarce test kits by screening users by having them vetted on video first. Using the app is even a more efficient way to eliminate testing those who don't need it. All responses made by first responders are confidential and there are now seven drive-through testing sites being run by Stanford Health Care with the capacity to test 2,500 first responders each day.

Because cops, firefighters, and EMT paramedics are both essential and on the front line of the war with the coronavirus, Stanford Medical is starting the testing with them. Dr. Bob Harrington, chairman of the Stanford Department of Medicine, said, "If we have a first responder who has symptoms, it’s really important for them to get screened and potentially test it because they’re going to be very patient-facing and very community-facing. That’s what their jobs are."

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The app is currently available in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California and Stanford Medicine hopes to expand its use to other essential workers such as grocery store workers and government employees. It also hopes to offer similar apps for essential workers in other counties in California and other states. The new app is called called the First Responder COVID-19 Guide can be downloaded from the App Store.

Robert Harrington, MD, professor and chair of medicine at Stanford, says,"Our researchers were among the first in the nation to develop and deploy our own COVID-19 test, a rapid response that has equipped Stanford Medicine with a crucial tool for protecting and caring for patients during this pandemic. We are pleased to have the support from Apple to further bolster our shared community by offering testing and a new app. We want to reinforce our support for frontline workers whose tireless efforts benefit us all during this challenging time."

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