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Stopping the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing on campus

The app NOVID is supposed to keep track of potential carriers of the virus while keeping users anonymous.

University officials are looking at how to keep students and staff from spreading the coronavirus into the fall semester. One way is through contact tracing.

Contact tracing, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is the process of warning someone when they might become exposed to a disease or virus to stop the spread of it.

The university plans on using multiple tools for contact tracing instead of one.

“We all want one simple solution for this, but it’s really going to be a multifaceted process,” Thomas said. “It starts with understanding, training and utilizing resources we have available to us.”

Student body president Emma Hoyhtya said that she talked with student government
leaders from other universities regarding issues with COVID-19. One student suggested the app NOVID.

Hoyhtya talked with the developers of the app to understand it further. After learning about the privacy and the technology of the app, she hopes to have it on campus.

“[My family and I] have been super interested in a contact tracing app since the beginning [of
COVID-19],” Hoyhtya said. “To have it right before my eyes was super fascinating to me.”

The app was created by a math professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Po-Shen Loh. NOVID, as he described it, is supposed to keep track of potential carriers of the virus while keeping users anonymous.

Loh said he estimated effective stay-at-home wait time in the United States to be around nine months. He found that to be unsustainable to the economy and daily life, and saw that now is the moment to help.

“As a network theorist, I realized I could contribute by making a completely anonymous app,
which is safe to use, that would actually stop the spread of COVID-19 and let us get back to work,” Loh said.

No personal information is required for the app.

Hoyhtya only shared details about the app to a small number of staff members but has noticed that others brought up the idea of contact tracing and apps such as NOVID during meetings.

“The biggest thing is that we need to be on the same page,” Hoyhtya said. “We need to have
the same goal in mind which is we don’t want COVID on campus.”

In order for a contact tracing app to be effective on campus, all students would have to download the same app and keep the app open, but Bradley has said it won’t require students to download contact tracing apps.

Contact tracing could also be done through Presence, a platform students may already be familiar with when they check-in to events on campus. Checking which events or meetings students and faculty attend throughout the day could pinpoint who may have been exposed to carriers.

Since on-campus learning has been limited until Thanksgiving break, any of these methods will only be needed until 10-14 days after students leave campus for Thanksgiving break and return home.

“Hypothetically, you may test positive after you left the university and still have been in contact
with students at the university [before testing],” Thomas said. “It’s when you may become
COVID positive that we would need to backtrack and see if the campus was impacted.”

Additional training and cooperation are being put into place. Jessica Higgs, Director of Health Services, is taking a course on contact tracing and Bradley will work with the Peoria Health Department when needed, Thomas said.

Thomas emphasized the importance of keeping students and staff educated on the tools
that could be implemented. While nothing is concrete at this time, multiple factors will be put into consideration to keep the coronavirus from spreading at Bradley.

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