By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Several months ago, UW-Madison launched an app to handle the misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and provide social support to those in need. The app, which can be found under the name COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect, is available on desktop, the App Store and Google Play.
Since its initial launch, the app has added new features, with two specifically for students heading back to school. According to the press release, in Wisconsin, about 800,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12th and about 100,000 college students are heading back to school.
The latest features are called College Life and Coping.
College Life is, “a discussion room in Let’s Chat, created for college students across the state to pose questions for moderators and offer and receive guidance tips for heading back to school.”
College Life includes helpful tips on how to deal with roommates, how to learn virtually, why bars have become a hotspot for transmission and more.
In the app’s article “COLLEGE LIFE: 24 Things You Can Do in a Pandemic,” students are encouraged to have fun but still be safe. The list includes suggestions such as playing hackey sack to doing an online internship to registering to vote to taking tours of virtual museums.
“The Coping feature offers information and resources about managing stress related to school, work, family and friendships,” according to the press release.
In an article titled “Back to School and COVID-19” posted on Thursday, Sept. 3, parents can have their questions answered from “Is it a cold, or is it COVID-19?” to “What risks do in-person classes present?” For the answers to those questions and more, visit covid.chess.wisc.edu.
The team behind the app consisted of over 30 members and included faculty and staff from UW-Madison as well as 17 undergraduate and graduate students. Due to Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order, the group convened over video and audio conferences.
The team was a part of the Center for Health Enhancement System Studies also known as CHESS. The app was able to utilize the technology CHESS had created to address other health challenges in Wisconsin such as breast cancer, lung cancer, substance use disorder and other chronic conditions.
In addition to developing the app, the team made sure to partner with the university’s Center for Communications and Civic Renewal, which is part of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to create a marketing plan. Seven graduate students from the Center for Communications and Civic Renewal also worked as the fact checkers for a portion of the app.
Other students were chosen as the moderators for the online discussion groups.
“They were deliberately chosen to bring a wide array of expertise and experiences to the app” Marie-Louise Mares, co-principal investigator on the project said in a press release from May.
The app’s other features are Let’s Talk, All About COVID-19, Fact Checker, Prevent & Protect, Calming and Resource Center. It’s never too late to download the app and to become informed on what’s happening in the Badger State.