High Point University to launch contact-tracing app

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — A local university is putting the finishing touches on a new app to help keep students safe this coming semester.

High Point University developed a contact-tracing app that stores student and faculty information under one database. If someone gets COVID-19, HPU can pinpoint who they came in contact with and discretely notify them.

“The key is all about public health and being responsive,” said Gail Tuttle, senior vice president for Student Life at HPU.

250 summer session students moved off campus Friday — enjoying their last few weeks of vacation before the fall semester. Tuttle tells FOX8 the past month has given faculty and staff a taste of what to expect in a COVID-19 world this fall and to further prepare.

“Our very first week we had a potential situation that occurred that they self-reported and so that was really amazing for us that our young people in a new home that they were willing to partner with us so that we could advise them accordingly,” Tuttle said.

It is a community effort to keep everyone safe on campus. HPU suffered a loss after Harry Hueston, a beloved member of the security team, passed away from complications linked to COVID-19 in April, shocking the university community. Tuttle sees the contact-tracing app adding another layer of protection against the virus and keeping it contained if cases pop up.

“If you were a student and you tell us you’re symptomatic, you have a rapid test in our health center, we put your name in. We put the dates of the infectious period. The 15-minute period or longer that you’ve been around [people]. It gives us a list of names. We hit one button and it sends a text to those individuals,” Tuttle said.

The notification is received within in seconds.

“Obviously when you get a text like that you don’t want to alarm someone and send them into hysteria. We want to be mindful of what that message looks like. It would say ‘Hello, this is the Office of Student Life. We’d like you to contact us. You may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19,’” Tuttle said.

Those students or faculty members would then quarantine for two weeks.

“Public health is all of our responsibility and our students have embraced that in this short four weeks. We’re very happy with that. We’re ready to go for fall. We don’t take it for granted that the health and well-being of everyone, every day, COVID or not COVID, we are responsible together in this journey,” Tuttle said.

High Point University plans to launch its contact-tracing app on Aug. 1. Students and staff will have to opt-in to the system when they arrive on campus next month.

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