UW-Madison launches free app: COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 2:52 PM CDT
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To help Wisconsinites get through the COVID-19 pandemic, UW-Madison launched a free desktop and mobile app.

"We began working with the Wisconsin Public Partnership, which helped fund a group of us, ranging from the College of Engineering all the way to our journalism department , to try to figure out what we could do to help people navigate the pandemic," said Michael Wagner, UW-Madison journalism professor.

About 5-6 weeks later, with assistance from the Center for Health Enhancement System Studies (CHESS), Wagner said they launched COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect.

"I think it's a testament to the Wisconsin Idea," said Wagner. "Most of us, you know, on campus are real believers in the idea that what we teach doesn't just stop with students but it should go to all the people of the state in ways that can help them to their lives more successfully."

COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect offers three main things: support, accurate information and coping strategies.

"It has a discussion feature so people can share what they're going through, get ideas for things that are working for other people and also get some questions answered by moderators," said Wagner. "That might be a place where parents can just share ideas for how they're getting through this with homeschooling with their kids."

Participants can remain anonymous in the discussion rooms.

Moderators will also be fact-checking and correcting misinformation that's been circulating on social media.

"We have this list of fact checks that have been done so we have a good sense of what's true and what's not. If we see on the discussion features information getting shared that's not true, then moderators can come in and take down that content," said Wagner.

Wagner said they won't be policing conversations, rather making sure everyone is getting accurate information.

"The fact checking on the COVID-19 virus is up 900% over the last month, which shows there are just lots of claims out there that need to be checked," said Wagner.

The app also has additional resources for those who are considered high-risk, along with other language options.

"Most everything is in English but there is information on the site and app that also can be used by those who only speak Spanish," said Wagner.

The free desktop app is available Monday, May 4. Just search: www.covid19wisconsinconnect.org

Wagner said the free mobile apps will be available soon.

"COVID-19 is not going away and so part of what we'll do is update information as the situation on the ground changes, so once we stop having a 'safer at home' order, we'll need new strategies for how to engage with others again in safe ways right," said Wagner.

COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect is funded by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program. Several UW-Madison departments helped in the creation of the app and its content.