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COVID-19 app connects Wisconsinites to latest updates, resources during outbreak

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COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app

MADISON (WKOW) -- With dozens of updates a day tracking positive cases, deaths, and modifications to the safer at home order, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has launched a COVID-19 app to put all these resources in one spot.

The COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app provides social support, resources, and up to date information to Wisconsinites during the coronavirus outbreak.

The desktop app can be accessed at; the mobile app is under review by the Apple App and Google Play stores, and is expected to be available in early May.

The project was funded by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

In the app, users can talk with others anonymous about questions they may have and share experiences to help one another.

Faculty members from the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication specially worked to include information from experts to discuss the myths and misinformation about the virus.

It's also a tool to help those who are stress out, offering free relaxation and stress reduction tips for those adjusting to a new normal.

The app was fast-adapted by the Center for Health Enhancement System Studies (CHESS), which took their existing app technology previously used in other medical research studies (cancer, HIV, etc) and adapted it to COVID-19.  

"What normally takes 6 months to a year we did in five weeks," said UW Political Science Professor Michael Wagner.

"Instead of having to buy a bunch of apps or search the web hoping you find good resources we put it all together in one free unit," he added.

In all, more than 30 UW -Madison faculty, staff and students worked on the app while teaching and attending spring online classes.

The app includes seven key sections:

- Discussion Rooms:  a live, open chat group; anonymous, moderated.

- COVID-19 Fact Checker: identifies misinformation circulating on social media specifically in Wisconsin, with vetted facts to address it (English and Spanish).

- Calming - by Healthy Minds Innovations: audio meditations to teach the skills of stress reduction, resilience, and social connectedness.

- Prevent & Protect: at-a-glance tutorials for prevention techniques (some in Spanish).

- Resource Center: additional resources, such as health statistics, sobriety, and help for victims of domestic victims;  some content is in Spanish and Hmong.

- All About COVID-19:  Step-by-step instructions, a screening tool and symptom tracking logs, provided through a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health

- Services (offered in Spanish, Hmong and Chinese Mandarin).

- Coping: (Coming soon) Will feature handling kids, worry, conflict, grief, and more.

The Department of Health Services is also involved providing patients and family caregivers a way to connect with others who are going through the same thing so they can give and receive support.

The app is an important resource to help Wisconsinites manage through COVID-19, no matter where they live, their  background, or their level of health risk, according to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and a principal investigator on this project.

"It contains helpful, vetted information, and allows Wisconsinites to share insights and advice with others in their own communities.  Importantly, it's an evolving resource.  The content provided in the app will be updated over time, as the impact of COVID evolves," he said.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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