UAB + ADPH launch GuideSafe, largest-scale higher education COVID-19 testing initiative in the US

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A GuideSafe testing facility at UAB’s Bartow Arena. Photo courtesy of GuideSafe

On Monday, August 3rd, officials from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Alabama System and the Alabama Department of Public Health gathered on Zoom to announce GuideSafe, a multi-tool platform to help test college students for COVID-19 and the largest-scale higher education testing initiative in the nation.

A COVID-19 Testing Platform

As the prospect of children returning to school nears, officials from UAB, The University of Alabama System and ADPH announced the official launch of GuideSafe, a new platform that encompasses the Stay Safe Together and Testing for Alabama initiatives.

Speakers included:

  • Finis St. John, chancellor of the University of Alabama System
  • Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Dr. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Sue Feldman, associate professor of health informatics at UAB School of Health Professions
  • Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine
  • Curt Carver, vice president and chief information officer at UAB
  • Bob Phillips, executive director of GuideSafe testing
  • Mohanraj Thirumalai, assistant professor of health informatics at UAB School of Health Professions
  • Dr. George Netto, chair of the UAB department of pathology

What is GuideSafe?

GuideSafe is comprised of three key components: GuideSafe™ HealthCheck, GuideSafe™ Exposure Notification Application and GuideSafe™ Event Passport. Photo via GuideSafe

“Alabama’s priorities in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic are protecting the health and safety of its residents while safeguarding their privacy. We appreciate this innovative partnership which will harness technology to accelerate exposure notification and help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health

Made possible by more $30 million of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, GuideSafe is a platform that offers up-to-date communication about COVID-19 testing, tools and actions for college students.

The platform was developed by experts at UAB in an effort to keep Alabama students safe as the return to their college campuses in the Fall. As previously announced, all returning and first-time college students in Alabama will take a free COVID-19 test through the GuideSafe program.

GuideSafe launches Exposure Notification App pilot

GuideSafe testing at UAB’s Bartow Arena. Photo courtesy of GuideSafe

One of the key announcements from today’s briefing was that the closed pilot phase of the platform’s Exposure Notification System (ENS) app officially launched today. The ENS app is designed to anonymously alert each user of potential exposure to people that has tested positive to COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

The pilot app was designed by UAB and MotionMobs, a Birmingham-based company that recently made national headlines for their new contact tracing app. During the pilot phase, GuideSafe is hoping to get downloads on up to 10,000 Apple iPhones and 10,000 Google Androids. Once the pilot phase is over later in August, the GuidesSafe app will be assessed and made available for the public.

Anyone with a .edu email address associated with a college or university in the state of Alabama is invited to participate in the pilot phase.

HealthCheck + Event Passport

In addition to the Exposure Notification System, GuideSafe offers two tools to help students make the best decisions for themselves and others—HealthCheck and Event Passport.

HealthCheck is a personal assessment tool that allows users to report COVID-19 related symptoms. GuideSafe encourages users to use the system each day, but ultimately enforcement is up to the individual institution.

Meanwhile, Event Passport is meant to make sure meetings and events with more than 10 participants stay safe. Once an individual has completed HealthCheck, Event Passport will let them know if they are cleared to attend an event—green means good to go, while red means you should not attend.

“The GuideSafe™ Event Passport is about showing up healthy – or not showing up at all.”

Dr. Sue Feldman, Associate Professor of Health Informatics at UAB School of Health Professions

What’s Next?

Before returning to campus, all college students in Alabama will be required to take a nasal swab-based COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy of GuideSafe

GuideSafe Entry Testing is an absolute requirement for each and every college student attending a public or private four-year college in Alabama. Additionally, all two-year college students that reside on campus are required to participate.

Starting tomorrow, August 4th at 11AM, mandatory GuideSafe Entry Testing will begin at 11 locations across Alabama:

  • Auburn, AL
  • Birmingham, AL
  • East Huntsville, AL
  • Florence, AL
  • Hoover, AL
  • Huntsville, AL
  • Jacksonville, AL
  • Livingston, AL
  • Marion, AL
  • Mobile, AL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Talladega, AL
  • Troy, AL
  • Tuscaloosa, AL

Before returning to campus, all students must take the free, GuideSafe-provided non-invasive nasal swab–based procedure. Students will receive test results within 48 hours.

Learn more about GuideSafe on their website.

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Nathan Watson
Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.
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