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COVID Screening App

No matter what impacts our lives in any way, there is likely to be an app for whatever it might be.  So it should be no surprise that smart phone users have a choice of apps to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.  Search the App Store on your iPhone or the Google Play store on your Android phone and you'll see what I mean.  But do we really need an app for this?

I went by the customer ratings.  An app developed by Apple got the highest rating on the iOS App Store.  It is a phone app version of Apple's COVID-19 Screening Tool that is also available on the Apple website.  The app was developed in cooperation with the CDC, the White House, FEMA, and the State of New York.

The tool takes you through a short questionnaire asking about any symptoms you might be feeling, and then tells you whether you should consider being tested for COVID-19.  There is nothing new here.  If you have read articles, or the state or local Health Department websites you already know what symptoms to look for.  The app also asks yiou to pick your state, and it displays information specific to your state's pandemic information... sort of.  Some states like New York and California display a paragraph and a 'Learn More' link that takes you to the state's official coronavirus website.  Most simply display the link.

COVID AppsThe iOS app (left) is probably the best of the bunch, but still not really necessary. The results of my screening (center) didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. The Android FEMA app (right) doesn't seem to do much for people concerned about the coronavirus

So do you need this app?  If you are a hypochondriac who wants to take some of the pressure off your doctor and local health care facilities by using the app to reassure yourself that you probably don't have the coronavirus, it certainly could help.  Unless you are the kind of hypochondriac who imagines that you do have the symptoms, in which case you're going to be pestering your health care professionals anyway.  For the rest of us, checking the Tompkins County and NYS health department sites, and perhaps the CDC site every so often will be more informative.

The CDC app received less customer approval, partly because users said it was not specific enough about the coronavirus.  That is not to say the CDC isn't an excellent resource for up to date coronavirus information and statistics -- it is.  But do you need an app for it?  Evidently not.  The CDC website is actually quite helpful, so I'd save the bytes on your phone and simply check their site in a browser.

I found it very odd that the most highly rated COVID-19 app on Android is the FEMA app.  But I gamely downloaded it to see why.  And then deleted it, because I couldn't figure out why anyone would think that app is worth using to stay up to date on COVID-19.  There were fewer COVID apps available for Android than for iOS.  I only saw four, and one of them is specific to Rhode Island.

So do you need an app for the pandemic?  My take is a resounding no.  The Tompkins County Health Department has done an incredibly good job of staying ahead of COVID-19, and especially getting the word out to anyone who will listen.  Our county's death rate (zero unless you count the two transfers from New York City) is a testament to what a good job the county department is doing.  The CDC website and the New York State Health Department website are also quite good for a quick look at national and state-wide stats.

The bottom line: COVID-19 apps are fine if they make you feel better, but completely unnecessary.  Sure, there's an app for that.  But wouldn't it be a whole lot better to be able to say, "there's an antidote for that"?

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