Sonoma County COVID-19 Check App Enhances Community Health, Safety
We all remember the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic: the fear, the anxiety, the frustration, the unknown. California Counties were on the front lines of this historic pandemic and working overtime to ensure the health and safety of their residents and communities. A significant challenge being faced was figuring out who might have been infected with the coronavirus – especially when it was critical to ensure essential parts of the public sector and economy kept running.
“We were really nervous about the fate of our businesses and, of course, our community suffering health impacts but also economic impacts,” explained Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin.
Carolyn Staats, Director of Innovation for the County, echoed these sentiments: “We had essential workers, we had essential businesses. And these people were really concerned about their health. How can you assess yourself before going into work?”
Sonoma County’s Public Health and the Information Technology Innovation Division, in partnership with the private sector, went quickly to work to devise a way to answer that question.
Within two months of the virus’s spread shutting down the state, Sonoma County developed an app that provides local employees and employers a safe, convenient way to check for symptoms or contact before entering a workplace. Since May 2020, the app has been accessible free of charge to any government or business entity in the county.
Sonoma County was the first county in California to release a COVID -19 app specific to screening community members in order to create a safer return to work and school. The County was also one of the first governmental entities in the country to develop an app of this kind whose focus is on the safe reopening of communities.
That’s why the SoCo COVID-19 Check App was a 2021 recipient of CSAC’s California Counties Innovation Award – only one of three presented to counties throughout the entire Golden State for developing and implementing creative, effective programs.
The app itself is very intuitive and easy to use. It provides a daily questionnaire to track an individual’s symptoms, if there are any, as well as potential exposures. If the individual is symptom free with no recent exposure to COVID-19, the app produces a badge that includes the date and time stamp, indicating they can report to work. The badge is shared with the employer, and the employee is cleared for work from the employer side of the app.
“Knowing that the people you are sitting next to or working with side by side are healthy was paramount in the minds of employees coming back into the workplace,” said Janelle Crane, Deputy Human Resources Director.
The app turned out to be very popular and useful.
Based on the most current data, 999 companies are using the application, 29,993 people have downloaded the app, and more than a million (1,150,485) total wellness checks have been submitted. In addition, 1,565 average daily wellness checks are submitted and of those 1,323 average daily with no symptoms or contact.
Data available from the app has also provided a broader picture of the population to Sonoma County Health Officials, contributing to more informed policies in response to this unprecedented pandemic.
Other key components of the app include URL links and dashboards. Individuals can click on links maintained by Public Health to learn the latest information on COVID-19 in the County and through the Center for Disease Control. The Public Health Officer has dashboards to analyze community and population-level data to view how various sectors are implementing mitigation measures.
Equity of use was also a key goal during the app’s development. The employer version is designed to contain the employee self-check questions for individuals who do not have access to a smartphone.
The app “puts the power back in our hands and it helps us to navigate through this pandemic in a way that’s safe,” said County Health Services Director Tina Rivera.
CSAC congratulates Sonoma County for their innovative use of technology to ensure the health and safety of their residents.