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By Ana Martinez-Ortiz

When it comes to COVID-19 or coronavirus, one could argue that there has been an onslaught of information. Every day brings more news and statistics, and coupled with the internet, information can quickly become widespread.

To help cope with the increasing amount of information, UW-Madison launched an app, COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect, on Monday, May 4. The app is available for free download on a phone or desktop. It will soon be available in the Apple and Google Play stores but for now it can be found at www.covid19wisconsinconnect.org.

According to Lew Friedland, a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and spokesperson, the app has several overarching goals.

“We want people to relieve their stress and get accurate information,” Friedland said. “Those are the two most important goals.”

Friedland explained that the app came to be after a group of people at UW-Madison realized that the coronavirus pandemic was going to be around for a while and that people would need information.

Through the efforts of an engineering team, Dr. David Gustafson and his team from the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS) and many more, the COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app was created.

COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect has three main features: a COVID-19 Fact Checker, Discussion Rooms and Meditations.

The Fact Checker feature is managed by researchers at UW-Madison who verify information and debunk rumors. The team focuses on providing accurate information that has been vetted by the government and reliable health sources.

The Discussion Room is a place for Wisconsin residents to connect and ask questions. Health and social support experts moderate the chat rooms, which are live and open to the public.

Friedland explained that Gustafson knew from his work with CHESS how important discussion rooms are to people dealing with a health issue.

Finally, Meditations is run by Health Minds Innovations and was created with assistance from Dr. Richard Davidson. This section of the app offers ways to relax and cope with the unprecedented amount of stress many people are feeling at this time.

“The framework came together from the team’s knowledge but it was tested with the community,” Friedland said, explaining that the team wanted feedback from community members.

In addition to the three main features the app also has tabs titled: Prevent & Protect, Resource Center and All About COVID-19. Depending on the section, the information is available in English, Spanish, Hmong and Chinese Mandarin.

Prevent & Protect offers prevention techniques, including how to clean things at home and stay safe at work. The Resource Centers lists additional resources including health statistics, sobriety support and help for victims of domestic violence. And All About COVID-19 provides information on symptoms and step-by-step instructions on recovery. This tab has a spot that helps users track their symptoms.

The team plans to add a new feature soon titled Coping, which will offer advice and information on how to handle kids, the many emotions associated with this pandemic and strategies for mitigating.

Friedland said the Coping feature is expected to be built out in the weeks to come.

As this pandemic continues, it is important to stay informed on what is happening in Wisconsin. Friedland said he hopes that everyone, takes advantage of and utilizes this app, especially black and brown communities, which have been hit the hardest.

To download the app visit the Apple or Google Play store on your mobile device or visit www.covid19wisconsinconnect.org.

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