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North Hills Monthly

Apps for All Things COVID

Jul 29, 2020 05:40PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

COVID-fatigue is a thing. Pandemic news can be overwhelming and depressing. The initial glow may have gone from working at home. Cleaning out closets has lost its appeal. Nevertheless, understanding the most recent coronavirus developments is one key to fighting the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official CDC app is the go-to app for accurate and timely information about coronavirus. Quick to download, easy to navigate and accurate in its content, the CDC app is a reliable resource for developments and insights into the COVID-19 pandemic. The app offers helpful at-a-glance summaries of new reports, including what is already known about the topic, what is added by the report, and what the implications are for public health practice. For anyone suspicious of news agency bias, the CDC app allows users to go directly to the source of the information. The CDC app’s best feature is a “Coronavirus Self Checker” that poses a series of questions and then tells the user whether to seek COVID-19 testing. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

The World Health Organization’s WHO Info app keeps users up to date about the latest news, stories, fact sheets and information regarding disease outbreaks. In an age of internet trolls and hacking, the WHO Info app provides a credible source of information about COVID-19 and a host of other diseases. The app is a must for anyone wanting to stay current on global trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Much has been written about coronavirus contact tracing apps and potential privacy issues around sharing health information. Some states and countries are already utilizing tracking apps, with varying levels of effectiveness; their success is dependent on having a critical mass of users, estimated at somewhere between 55 and 60 percent. In a slightly different approach, Johns Hopkins University’s COVID Control app asks users to participate anonymously in a study that allows people across the United States to enter their temperature and symptoms; the university will analyze that data and create responsive maps and risk estimates. The app asks for the user’s state of residence, age range and gender but does not collect any other identifying information. Participants take and record their own temperature daily, then click a button to indicate any COVID symptoms they may be experiencing. The more people who participate, the better the data pool. COVID Control is an experiment in crowd-sourcing data collection and offers the public a way to do something to help the scientific community fight the spread of this disease. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Pulse-oximeters are the clips that go on a patient’s finger to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. Pulse Oximeter – Beat and Oxygen (Android) and DigiDoc Oximeter (iOS) are two popular apps that attempt to do the same thing. Because decreased lung function is one symptom of COVID-19, downloads for pulse-ox apps have spiked in recent months. However, while the apps can be helpful in establishing trends in oxygen levels, medical experts caution that pulse-ox apps fail to provide reliable readings. Apple actually removed Oximeter from its App Store in May—though users who previously downloaded the app may still use it. Oximeter is actively working to move the app to the Google Play Store. In the meantime, Android users may play around with Pulse Oximeter – Beat and Oxygen. Though the app is no substitute for medical advice or testing, it can serve as an interesting amateur tool for monitoring personal health metrics. (Free; available for Android)

Much more accurate is the Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor & Pulse Checker app. Users place a finger on their smartphone’s camera and receive a reading in about ten seconds. The developer emphasizes that this app is intended for entertainment rather than medical purposes, and that results are most accurate when the app is used daily to establish individual trends. Users can tag their heart rate upon awakening and during workouts to separate resting heart rate from workout heart rates. Again, though not a substitute for medical monitoring, Instant Heart Rate allows individuals to track their body’s trends and perhaps gain some insight into stressors—such as a global pandemic—and how different situations affect the way their heart functions. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

If the pandemic news has created anxiety, the Simple Habit: Meditation, Sleep app might help. The app offers guided mediation and mindfulness sessions designed to relieve stress and help users achieve better sleep. The premium features require in-app purchases, but the free version has lots of great content and is a helpful tool for combatting sleep issues and stress. A good night of sleep may not cure COVID-19, but it can certainly help with overall health and wellness. (Free with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

Whether looking for timely and accurate information or monitoring individual health, a variety of apps provide tools to help manage the COVID-19 environment.